'He rocks heels and a frock - I'm oh-so envious' - Everybody's Talking About Jamie review

Ivano Turco, left, as Jamie New and Kevin Clifton, as Hugo (and Loco Chanelle) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie
-Credit: (Image: Matt Crockett)


It seems everybody’s been talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie for so long that I definitely needed an in on this particular conversation - one that features Grimsby's own Strictly royalty Kevin Clifton.

I got my chance last night when the hit musical returned to the Hull New Theatre stage - and I was in good company. A nigh-on full auditorium was eager to find out exactly why the eponymous hero of the piece is such a popular topic for discussion.

From the off, fun and energy radiate from the stage as Miss Hedge (Sam Bailey, winner of The X Factor 2013) tries to keep a class of unruly 16-year-olds, with end-of-school in sight, in order while asking them what their future hopes might be. Most answer “dunno, Miss”, but a couple of Year 11s, including a daydreaming Jamie New (Ivano Turco), know exactly what they have their hearts set on.

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While psychometric testing suggests Jamie is best suited to forklift driving, the exuberant student’s ambition is to be a drag queen. And he wants to attend his school prom in a dress.

Thus the story of Jamie – based on the real-life Jamie Campbell – unfolds and our hearts go out to him as he wavers between conforming, as Miss Hedge insists he should, or going full out with his plan, supported by his classmate Pritti Pasha (Talia Palamathanan), who faces her own battles with peer prejudice. Hugo (Strictly Come Dancing's Kevin Clifton) and his startlingly good drag alter-ego Loco Chanelle help to empower Jamie with a guest spot at the Legs Eleven club – and the loan of a red-hot dress for the performance.

Scene from Everybody's Talking About Jamie with Loco Chanelle, front left, played by Kevin Clifton, Jamie New (Ivano Turco) and the larger than life Legs Eleven Girls
Scene from Everybody's Talking About Jamie with Loco Chanelle, front left, played by Kevin Clifton, Jamie New (Ivano Turco) and the larger than life Legs Eleven Girls -Credit:Matt Crockett

Jamie’s mum Margaret New (Rebecca McKinnis) and her BFF Ray (Sejal Keshwala) are staunch supporters of his ambitions and help to provide moments of joy – preparing a surprise birthday celebration and presenting Jamie with a pair of sky-high red heels for his 16th – and heartbreak, as they cover up for Jamie’s absent father, who later tells his ever-hopeful son he is “disgusted” by him. McKinnis’s soul-touching rendition of “He’s My Boy” brought some of the loudest applause of the night.

There are fabulous songs throughout, some to laugh at, some to shed tears to, backed by brilliant musicians who you get the briefest glimpses of in their unusual lofty perch, rather than being down in the orchestra pit. Every member of the cast deserves praise for their individual performances that are believably, bullyingly horrible where they need to be.

I must single out Turco, who only graduated from drama school in 2020, for his poignant portrayal of Jamie. He can rock heels and a frock – I am oh-so envious of those legs – and he simply shines as the gay teenage hero from a Sheffield council estate who aspires to be a drag queen sensation.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs at Hull New Theatre until Saturday, June 22, with matinees on Thursday and Saturday. Thursday’s evening show will also be BSL interpreted.