Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Southampton Mayflower and touring

BACK in 2011, when pronouns were nothing more than another boring bit of grammar you were supposed to learn at school, a 16-year-old boy in a former mining village in County Durham decided to go to his school prom in a frock, and Googled his way to contacting a documentary film company which would record his journey to the big night.

The rest really IS theatrical history. The documentary was made and broadcast, spotted by a director who was then put into contact with a composer and a lyricist (by Michael Ball), and a show was created to perform on the stage of Sheffield’s Crucible theatre (known to millions as the place where the World Snooker Championship is played). The short run sold out and London producer and theatre owner Nica Burns dashed up to Sheffield, booked the show and brought it to the West End. Since then it has been packing houses in London and on its tours, has been filmed and continues to inspire generations of young people to follow their dreams in a doom -laden world.

Ivano Turco, who made his professional debut when he was personally chosen by Andrew Lloyd-Webber to play Prince Sebastian in Cinderella in the West End, joins the show as the fourth “Jamie”. He leads this touring company with energy, pathos and charisma. The excellent cast also includes Shobna Gulati, memorably last seen locally as the monstrous Mari Hoff in Salisbury.

Of course it’s a feel-good show with a happy ending, achieved by confronting all sorts of difficulties – from parental abandonment through scrimp-and-save poverty to peer-and-their-parent persecution – and coming out victorious. The music merges hi-energy pop and beats with classic ballads, here delivered with show-stopping pathos by Rebecca McKinnis as Margaret New, Jamie’s devoted mum. There are also outstanding performances by John Partridge as Hugo and Talia Palamathanan as the studious Pritti Pasha. The disenchanted graduating students are, necessarily, a caricatured bunch, but it seems from that original documentary that they are drawn frighteningly accurately.

Southampton Mayflower was filled with excited audience members who would have delighted demographologists with their extraordinary variety. With an on-stage band, sitting behind and high above the actors, there is always a danger of unbalanced sound, but mostly the quick and clever dialogue was clear (though Ivano Turco’s falling cadences were a bit of a challenge).

That all sounds pompous for a show that is essentially a celebration of youth and life and a lasting encouragement to everyone to be themselves in the face of jealous judgementalists. Not only does Jamie have legs, but his story does, too.

See it at Southampton until Sunday. The tour continues, stopping at Bristol Hippodrome from 25th to 30th March, Plymouth Theatre Royal from 1st to 6th April and Portsmouth Kings Theatre from 6th to 11th May. Find other dates on the show’s website.



Photographs by Matt  Crockett

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