It’s been a long time. The last time we visited The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury it was the week that lockdown was announced, and Stewart Lee wasn’t thrilled to be there. 18 months have now passed without a visit to our local theatre, and what a way to return than to see the long Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The smash-hit musical makes its visit to Canterbury, featuring West End star Layton Williams, EastEnders’ much-loved Shane Richie and TV favourite Shobna Gulati, reprising their roles from the West End.
Jamie is a generally happy young man, 16 and living in Sheffield – but with ambition. He wants to go to the school prom in a dress. Will his classmates accept him, or is this doomed for disaster?
Camp, playful and giddy, it was a riot of singing and dancing with some incredibly witty one liners. The songs fell a little flat at times, although there’s a good mix of heart wrenching ballads and uplifting toe tappers, but was made up for by a pacy script and fun storyline.
As with all of these underdog stories, including the Billy Elliot that this musical has echoes of, we were rooting for Jamie from the start.
Of course it’s all about Jamie, but many of the other characters are also given space to share their stories and over time the whole cast is given a depth often not seen in musicals. Empowerment and acceptance are at the core of this narrative, as well as whistle-stop tour of LGBTQ history but it never feels forced or pushed on you. The teen dialogue is accurate, and we’re given the opportunity to see a variety of people and cultures enjoy themselves onstage. It’s not just acceptance of Jamie, but everyone.
Based on a true story and documentary, this is a performance well worth seeing. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a joyous celebration of flying arms and flailing legs, bright lipstick and sequinned outfits, that will leave you feeling fizzy and uplifted as you leave the theatre. The theatre you’ve promised yourself you’ll return to very soon indeed.