REVIEW: Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Sunderland Empire Theatre 

Powerful, fabulous and fantastically funny, Jonathan Butterell's Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a fun and vivacious tale of positivity and determination.

Jamie New, a 16-year-old Sheffield schoolboy is hiding a secret - despite his career quiz predicting his future career as a 'forklift truck driver', he has dreams of the stage; to be a drag queen.

Played by breakout star Ivano Turco, the musical follows his quest for stardom, culminating in his long-held ambition to wear a dress to his high school prom.

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The Northern Echo: Everybody's Talking About Jamie.Everybody's Talking About Jamie. (Image: MATT CROCKETT)

The show is actually based on the real story of County Durham drag queen Jamie Campbell, who was the subject of the 2011 BBC documentary 'Jamie: Drag Queen at 16'.

Audiences are launched right into the action, opening in a bustling classroom setting with teacher Miss Hedge (Hayley Tamaddon) where we are introduced to Jamie and his schoolmates.

We then follow Jamie's discovery of his drag persona (Mimi Me) and his heart-wrenching battle for a meaningful relationship with his dad, all the while being supported by mum Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis).

Turco as Jamie was throughout, a joy to watch.

The Northern Echo: Everybody's Talking About Jamie.Everybody's Talking About Jamie. (Image: MATT CROCKETT)

Despite the character of Jamie naturally being a very bubbly and effervescent personality, Turco added an extra sparkle to the character that uncontrollably seeped through - his clear love of Jamie made him that more fantastic in the eponymous role.

An unexpected highlight of the show was Shobna Gulati's performance of Ray - Jamie's supportive family friend who by any standard serves as a second mum to the protagonist.

Gulati scored laughs throughout the show, notably for her fiery swears and fierce maternal protection of Jamie in difficult situations.

The Northern Echo: Everybody's Talking About Jamie.Everybody's Talking About Jamie. (Image: MATT CROCKETT)

Another star was Talia Palamathanan for her depiction of Pritti Pasha - Jamie's best friend. 'It Means Beautiful' was a standout performance.

I think what was most impressive about the show was that it was a modern take on drag; drag for a new age that surpasses outdated stereotypes of seedy queens and a society that once was not fully tolerant of the profession.

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Explored alongside Jamie's drag stardom dreams were strong and palpable themes of acceptance, self-discovery, homophobia, racism, family relationships and friendship. 

Therefore, what Jamie's story is able to capture is not just about a boy in a dress, it is a widely relatable tale of discovering who you are in a society that may not always be the most supportive or initially thrilled with your choice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and would happily return to see it again. Everybody is, and should absolutely be talking about Jamie.