Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the inspiring story of sixteen year-old Jamie New, as he realises his dream of becoming a drag queen, and the challenges he faces in making this dream a reality. Based on the true story of Jamie Campbell growing up in County Durham, the musical mirrors a lot of Campbell’s own experiences and makes for a truly moving narrative.
Having booked tickets to the show over six months ago, my mum and I were eager to take our seats inside Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in mid-February to finally see the award-winning musical. With a sold-out venue, anticipation crept through the audience as we got settled, perused the programme, and got ever closer to curtains-up. The on-stage scenery was immediately indicative of a classroom setting with desks scattered around, immersing the audience in the musical’s narrative from the get-go. And without any warning, the opening number Don’t Even Know It burst to life, actors entered on stage and the lighting lowered, simultaneously starting the show.
Following the timeline of Jamie’s year eleven, his sixteenth birthday, and eventual prom, we as the audience learn of Jamie’s inner drag persona while he navigates his final year of school. Situated in working-class Sheffield, Jamie repeatedly faces harassment, discrimination, and intolerance due to his lifestyle and fashion choices, including the wearing of high heels. This judgement comes from classmates, strangers, and even his own father, exposing a lack of paternalistic support, and the deep-rooted gender stereotypes that many continue to hold to this day.
Jamie’s class and their dynamics similarly become understood, with each pupil having their own stories and struggles external from the primary narrative of Jamie. Pritti, for example, the protagonist’s best friend, dreams of becoming a doctor and by the end of the show, we too, hope for her success having seen her dedication. The school bully, Dean Paxton, was played by none other than the 2008 winner of Britain’s Got Talent George Sampson in this UK Tour, which was rather fun seeing his professional dance moves on stage.
Yet Jamie’s story is not all sad news.
With loving characters including Jamie’s mum Margaret, her friend Ray, and the drag store owner Hugo (aka former drag queen Loco Chanelle, and played by Shane Ritchie best known from EastEnders) encouraging Jamie’s aspirations, he slowly but surely comes into his own and personifies his drag dream in Mimi Me, his own drag persona. This coming-of-age narrative concludes with the school prom and the acceptance of Jamie attending in a dress, which is an arduous endeavour over the course of the show and makes for a moving outcome indeed.
Tackling themes of gender identity, familial relationships, diversity, bullying, societal norms, and friendship to name a few, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is truly a musical for the modern world.
The production effortlessly confronts problematic views which remain prevalent across contemporary Britain, whilst equally being accompanied with catchy songs and amusing anecdotes. Some of my personal favourite songs include Work Of Art, He’s My Boy, and the self-titled Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Both the cast and crew put on a positively uplifting show, earning a well-deserved standing ovation at the end and leaving a smile on our faces.
A poignant performance, I’d give the show 4/5 stars.
If you fancy finding out more about Jamie’s journey, the musical was adapted into an Amazon Original film, now available on Prime.