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Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Peacock Theatre

In some ways, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has become just a little dated since its Sheffield premiere in 2017 – indeed, the world has changed partly thanks to that pandemic (you know the one), and it is, frankly, a bit odd watching Year 11 pupils in this day and age who aren’t as glued to their smartphones as adults are on the morning commute. Or is it? It could be assumed, as some schools have done, that the fictional Mayfield School in the very unfictional Sheffield, has banned mobiles from being used on the premises.

Ivano Turco (Jamie New) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett.
Ivano Turco (Jamie New) in the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett.

But when Jamie New (Ivano Turco) loses his temper, arguably justifiably, with his mother Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis), a considerable way into the second half, and storms out, the single parent is left waiting until he returns. Margaret seems overly calm given that she doesn’t know where her son is, which left me wondering if this is something he’s done before. Either way, these are the days before the ubiquity of WhatsApp and Instagram – the various incidents in the show of school bullying and displays of homophobia would, in this day and age, almost certainly have been filmed, possibly by multiple pupils, which if anything might provide vital evidence.

As it is, however, the show remains a joyous triumph, and has remained faithful to the original production, to the point of retaining punchlines that went down like a lead balloon in London but were met with loud cheering and applause the very first time I saw this show up in Sheffield – Jamie’s remark that he would rather be watching the snooker than revising for GCSEs, for example, got a very different reaction in the Crucible Theatre, home of the World Snooker Championships, than it did at the Peacock.

I can’t comment with any authority on how contemporaneous the vocabulary that the pupils use both in and out of the classroom is, suffice it to say it didn’t feel to me as though this was one of those shows where there are outmoded assumptions of what teenagers sound like. The Yorkshire accents seem on point – there were fleeting moments in the sometimes rapidly-paced spoken dialogue when I didn’t have a clue what was being said. Kate Prince’s choreography does well to reflect the vibrant youthfulness of the pupils, and the (almost) stereotypical bookworm Pritti Pasha (an engaging Talia Palamathanan) also bursts into song and dance on several occasions. It was of no surprise to me to discover Palamathanan is also the production’s dance captain.

For all the sleek moves and catchy, upbeat tunes, one of the most sustained applauses of the night came at the end of the torch number ‘He’s My Boy’. Quite right, too, as McKinnis’ Margaret expresses, with considerable heartfelt poignancy, why she stands by her son Jamie through thick and thin. The show also retains its ability to shock – gasps and grumbles could be heard from the audience more than once, and I daresay if this were a pantomime the antagonists would have been booed and hissed unprompted. By not shying away from some hard-hitting themes exploring the challenges a working-class pupil faces in a world that would rather tear him down and call him useless and a waste of space than encourage him to live his life, the eventual triumph over adversity is very much earned.

Ray (Shobna Gulati) – for some reason the show has a lady called Ray – has good comic timing, while John Partridge’s Hugo has incredible stage presence, especially as his drag queen alter ego Loco Chanelle, with seemingly effortless flamboyance and glamour. A gritty storyline combined with a strong and enthusiastic cast make this a golden and gratifying night out.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. Jamie is going to be a sensation. Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.

This ‘Funny, outrageous, touching’ (Daily Telegraph) musical sensation is to be experienced by all the family and not to be missed!

Starring Ivano Turco (Get Up, Stand Up!, Cinderella) as Jamie New; Rebecca McKinnis (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie West End, Dear Evan Hansen, We Will Rock You, Les Misérables) as Margaret New; Shobna Gulati (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie West End and Film, Coronation Street, Brassic) as Ray; Talia Palamathanan (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Tour and film) as Pritti; Author, podcast host and Queen of the Jungle Giovanna Fletcher as Miss Hedge; with John Partridge (Eastenders, The View Upstairs, La Cage Aux Folles, Chicago, A Chorus Line, CATS) as Hugo/Loco Chanelle.

They are joined by KY Kelly (Anthony Gyde) (Laika Virgin), Garry Lee (Sandra Bollock), David McNair (Tray Sophisticay), Akshay St Clair (Dad), Jordan Ricketts (Dean), Liv Ashman (Vicki), Rhiannon Bacchus (Fatimah), Geoff Berrisford (Sayid), Jessica Daugirda (Bex), Finton Flynn (Young Loco Chanelle / Jamie New cover), Annabelle Laing (Becca), Luca Moscardini (Levi), Joshian Omana (Cy), Thomas Walton (Mickey), Takayiah Bailey (Swing) and Georgina Hagen (Understudy Margaret / Ray / Miss Hedge).

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells
Book and Lyrics by Tom MacRae
From an idea by Jonathan Butterell
Directed by Matt Ryan from original direction by Jonathan Butterell

Thursday 15 February, 7.30pm
Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT

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