Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Teen Edition WEP Performance Company

Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Teen Edition WEP Performance Company

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Teen Edition WEP Performance Company – John Marley Centre – 11th June 2023

Photo Credit: One Imagery David Brennan

I have been totally blown away by this performance by the young and up and coming stars of the future this afternoon with their unique production of the relatively new musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie co-directed by Mark Hedges, Kris Manuel, and Kirsten Spitty.

Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is based, in part, on a documentary called Drag Queen at 16 and tells the tale of Jamie New who, having considered all the jobs available to him in his home town of Sheffield, that all he wants to be is a drag queen. He is supported in his desire by his mum, single mother, Margaret and her best friend, Ray, who acts as a surrogate auntie to the flamboyant and precocious Jamie.

The venue, which is a former college campus-cum-Arts Centre, provides many a challenge for the creative team which they overcame with some innovative ideas. The set is a cat walk which doubles as a classroom, Hugo’s costume shop and a wonderful performance area for all the cast, but especially Jamie, to strut their stuff.

Jamie New, at this performance, was played by Reuben Elsworth and he did a marvellous job. I would suggest that acting effeminate or camp does not come naturally to this fine singer and actor but he brought the role to life very well indeed and his singing was superb. Ray (Maia Haden) was brilliant as ‘Auntie’ Ray and really got into the salt of the earth character who does not mince her words.

One of my favourite parts in this musical is the rather tricky dual personality of Hugo and his alter-ego Loco. I have seen this show professionally more than once and I always prefer one character to the other when I have seen it done but Harvey Johnson did a marvellous job of both of them.

My two “star performer” accolades came from the girls; Emma Egan was outstanding as the single mother Margaret and her vocals under the directorship of Amy Mellor were really out of this world in both of her emotionally charged solos. This young lady is destined for great things – in my mind, I had already cast her in the title role of ‘Waitress’ a part that is undoubtedly perfect for her. My second star goes to Matilda Spitty who plays the role of Pritti, Jamie’s best friend and confidant. This is also a challenging role because there are many nuances to Pritti’s character and her beliefs and feelings are challenged from all directions throughout this musical.

I would love to name everyone but I would be here until their next show – suffice it to say that the entire ensemble deserves all the high praise given and, indeed, the standing ovation at the end. A superb production all round of which everybody who has seen it will be talking about for some time to come. There were also two casts covering the performances of this run. I am sorry that I did not get to see the other group because I am sure they will have been equally as fabulous. In fact, looking at the cast list, some of the cast performed alternate roles in the opposite cast which makes it even more impressive.

Praise also goes to the technical team with Jonathan Mellor of Tyne Audio performing acoustic wizardry on sound and Paul Oliver of POSS Productions on lighting. Effectively performed in the round, there were significant challenges to overcome acoustically and in terms of lighting positions. Paul only managed to blind me once which was impressive in itself. The costumes (Mairi Kennedy) were well thought out and another shout out to Reuben for not setting his neck in those heels!

This is not amateur theatre; this is not even community theatre. This is setting the wheels in motion to hone and mould the skills of already very talented young actors and to prepare them for professional theatre in the not-too-distant future. Very well done on an outstanding and thoroughly absorbing performance.

  • Stephen Stokoe

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