Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’re looking for a post pandemic pick-me-up then look no further, get yourself down to The Lowry and immerse yourself in this heart-warming gem of a show.

After debuting at Sheffield’s crucible theatre in 2017 the West End beckoned for the inspiring story of Jamie New, a 16 year old boy with dragtastic plans in life.

Based on the true story of Jamie Campbell and inspired by the BBC3 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 the show delves into the life of Jamie New; on the surface fearless and fabulous, underneath sensitive and scarred, but always true to himself.

Layton Williams returns to the role after playing Jamie in the West End and absolutely shines. His sass and sarcasm ensuring every brilliantly witty line lands while his vulnerability leaves you yearning for him to succeed.

Amy Ellen Richardson brings grit and soul to Jamie’s Mum, Margaret; her 2nd half delivery of He’s My Boy left me with more than a lump in my throat & thankful I’d packed the tissues; absolutely stunning.

Jamie’s relationship with Margaret, a strong, determined, single mum lies at the very heart of the piece and shapes the story beautifully. Williams and Richardson convince entirely; the ease in which they share the stage together illustrates the fiercely unconditional love between mother and son to perfection.

Shobna Gulati as Ray, Margaret’s best friend and often substitute parent for Jamie is fantastic, bringing humour and iconic Northern female strength to the role she’s as loyal as they come and as much family as any blood relative.

Shane Ritchie acts as Drag Mother Hugo/Loco Chanel bringing depth to the role as the former drag queen with their own multi-layered story to tell, a cheerleader to Jamie and instant hit with the audience. Another important cheerleader in Jamie’s life is best friend Pritti portrayed wonderfully by Sharan Phull. Her calm resilience and loving encouragement are incredibly touching.

The themes of inclusivity and individuality are delivered with true authenticity. There’s nothing gimmicky about this show, the story feels real and truly heartfelt. While the slick ensemble numbers thrill, with the excellent ensemble showcasing Kate Prince’s choreography superbly it’s the quieter moments that draw you in, ensuring you’re #TeamJamie from the start.

The journey school bully Dean (George Sampson) goes on isn’t brash or obvious but one of a new understanding through education and removal of fear.

Like many of us, theatre makers have had an incredibly difficult time during the pandemic but seeing a show as joyful and uplifting as this reminds you just how affecting and inspiring theatre can be.

Packed full of witty one liners, superb songs & stunning choreography Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a life-affirming celebration. An absolute must-see bursting with joy and heart.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is on at The Lowry until Sunday 12th September tickets available https://thelowry.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie/

The Entertainer

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s often said that role of Archie Rice is a dream role for any actor; it’s an actor’s role, a role filled with pathos, a real rollercoaster of emotions. The likes of Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Lindsey and Michael Gambon have all played this iconic character, either on stage or screen, and now it’s the turn of one of the nation’s favourite song-and-dance men, Shane Richie.

The original production was set during the 1950’s in the shadow of the Suez crisis, however director Sean O’ Connor has shifted the action to 1982: Britain has just gone to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands and comic Archie Rice is working the club scene, with diminishing success. His act is a string of sexist gags and mother-in-law jokes, think a cross between Bernard Manning and David Brent and you’re on the right track. Rice is struggling to adapt to a changing world of alternative comedy and so-called political correctness.

As Rice’s routine is in the gutter, his home life isn’t fairing much better: he is unhappily married to his second wife, Phoebe (played tonight by Alice Osmanski), his father Billy (Pip Donaghy) holds some pretty extreme views about their neighbours and the state of the country, his daughter, Jean (Diana Vickers) has come back home after splitting with her fiancé, and finally his son Mick, has been captured whilst serving in the Falklands.

The majority of the action takes place in the Rice’s flat as the family bicker about the current state of the country, argue about Archie’s womanising, Phoebe’s desire to move Canada, and Jean’s moralistic view of the world, which strongly differs from that of her family. This is all done with the support of copious amounts of gin, as all of the family struggle with their own alcoholism. This is punctured with brief snapshots of Archie’s faltering act, some 1980’s bangers, and some genuine/fictious tabloid headlines of the day. As the Rice’s situation becomes more desperate, the already fractured family begins to come apart at the seams.

This is a challenging, gritty piece of work, there is a great deal to admire about the production. Despite being well over 60 years old, the themes Osbourne was addressing back then are just as relevant today. The setting of Thatcher’s Britain gives the production a gritty realism: the club spots and the scenes at the flat are quite grimy, so much so that you want to jump in the shower as soon as you get home.

The excellent performances are what make this production that little bit special. All five actors do a solid job throughout and it’s the dynamic between Shane Richie and Diana Vickers that is the real heartbeat of this production. Richie does a fantastic of job making you care about Archie. He knows his best days are behind him,  he knows he’s made mistakes yet despite his many flaws, you cannot but help but want him to succeed, and it’s purely down to the strength of Richie’s performance: if you don’t have that connection then it doesn’t work.

In Diana Vickers you have the moral compass of the family, someone that has yet to be tainted by her environment, and someone who has a chance of making a difference, it’s the conflict between the two of them that drives the narrative along and it’s a credit to both actors that this works so well.

It is a tough watch and one that is short on laughter, unless you like your comedy uncomfortable and cringy, however this is a production that is certainly worth a watch and one that will split audiences and more importantly spark debate and that is always good in my book.

The Entertainer is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 2nd November. Tickets available here.