Review Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, New Wimbledon Theatre

Jenny Booth reviews: “It’s a joyful evening, with a fantastic Act One finale set backstage at a drag club, and a fist-pumping climax at the end of Act Two”


Don’t miss this show. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a perfect night’s entertainment: the plot funny, feisty and able to hit a nerve for anyone in the audience, the musical numbers tuneful and perfectly delivered, and the cast up to top West End standards. And this is despite the fact that on opening night at New Wimbledon Theatre, the lead role of Jamie – the teenage boy who sometimes wants to be a girl – was played by the understudy, Adam Taylor. More power to Adam Taylor, who must have a great career ahead of him. He connected to great emotional effect with Amy Ellen Richardson playing his mum, and Sharan Phull playing his best mate Pritti. His voice was persuasive, his movements were so confident and convincing, that I had no idea I wasn’t watching the actor originally cast as the lead. [Layton Williams will be rejoining the cast on Saturday 9 April.]

The story has become a phenomenon since the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16 went out on BBC3 ten years ago. The real-life Jamie New had always known he was gay, and had a secret longing to be a drag queen. Supported by his mum and his bestie, he found the strength and self-belief to go to his school prom in drag, in spite of the taunts of the school bully and the hurtful rejection of his father. It is a story about inclusivity and acceptance, about not allowing prejudiced people to stop you being yourself and living your best life, about the unconditional love of a parent and the support of true friends. The real Jamie has heaped generous praise on the theatre production: “It was like looking at a mirror of my 16-year-old self. So young, so naive, so ambitious. Ready to take on the world and nothing was going to get in my way.”

There were four standout performances in the show. First, naturally, was Taylor as Jamie, running the gamut from exultant to despairing, garrulous to broken, ridiculously confident to deeply vulnerable. Richardson, playing his mum Margaret, has a slew of West End credits and really showed star quality, with her emotionally naked and deeply relatable performance and the beauty of her voice. Shane Ritchie is a tour de force as drag shop proprietor Hugo and his drag alter ego Loco Chanelle; he exhibited every bit of his huge talent while considerately stopping just the right side of scene-stealing. And then there is Phull, as Pritti: with a performance of great honesty, simplicity and humour, she was a star. George Sampson as Dean the bully and Sasha Latoya as Ray were also excellent, and Lara Denning gave a nuanced performance as the sharp-elbowed jobsworth Miss Hedge.

It’s a joyful evening, with a fantastic Act One finale set backstage at a drag club, and a fist-pumping climax at the end of Act Two. If I had a criticism, it is that at 80 minutes the first act is a touch long – there is a bit of slack in the dialogue that could be cut. But don’t let that deter you from seeing a truly first-class show.

New Wimbledon Theatre, until 9 April