Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Grand Opera House, Belfast, Tuesday, March 8, 2022, Theatre Review

By Conor O’Neill

A heaving Grand Opera House is ready, the stage is set. To the stage’s upper awnings a band is tuning up; wonderfully led by Ben Atkinson and supported by six top of the pops musicians. Aye, this is a musical alright. And one filled with stunning glamour. Seems like most of Belfast’s queer community has turned out for the great occasion.

We are, of course, talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Get your high-heels on and get ready for an absolutely fabulous show. And get this, it’s based on a true tale. Jamie, played by the wonderful Layton Williams – who, by the way has legs most women – and probably 100% of the men – in the packed theatre would kill for has a problem: he’s gay and wants to be a drag queen. Miss Hedge (Lara denning) his careers teacher has him down as a forklift driver.

But Jamie has allies. Meet mum Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) foster dad/mum Ray – Jamie’s own words – (Sasha Latoya) and best friend Pritti Pasha (Sharan Phull), none of the three doubt Jamie’s abilities.

Some of the action takes place in the year eleven classroom; every protagonist needs a nemesis, enter Dean (George Sampson) a bully through and through. Yet he seems to have some questions he needs to answer himself. Not all is revealed but you’ll get the gist.

Did I mention this is a musical? From start to finish. The band is full of top professionals with special mention to Will Smith and Hannah Corcoran on the horns. The wall In My Head by Jamie in act one will have your heart pounding, four-to-the-floor floor-filler material, The legend Of Loco Chanel by Hugo and the Legs is another top tune.

Who is Hugo? Only Sheffield’s most famous drag queen Loco Chanel, played by everyone’s favourite Eastender Shane Richie.

Every drag queen needs a backstory, Jamie’s only writing his at the age of 16. With the prompting of Hugo/Loco Chanel, supportive mum Margaret, Ray and his dear friend Pritti the gang face down. But there’s a problem, dad (Cameron Johnson). Quite a piece of work.

The set changes from moment to moment; one sec you’re in a classroom, the next the Legs Eleven drag club, move another moment and it’s Margaret’s slum of a flat, another you’re in Pritti’s bedroom ready to climb down the wall.

To say this is over the top is quite the understatement, you can always, usually, tell what kind of show you’re in by the audience you’re with. During the interval, while pushing past on the way to the seat an effeminate voice said to me, ‘breathe in and think thin’, this made my night. What a fantastic show and audience. Director Cameron Johnson and choreographer Simeon Beckett have much to feel chuffed about.

Williams and Richie almost steal this show, but the cast is too full of talent to let that happen.

Will Jamie go to the prom in his blood red high-heels? Will bullying win out? To find out simply book a ticket. You know it makes sense. A simply fantastic coming of age tale.

For further info visit http://www.goh.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02890 241919

ENDS

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