Everyone’s Worried About Jamie
Theater of the Festival, Edinburgh
Four Star Stars
For any sixteen-year-old on the cusp of a huge, bad world where a dead-end life awaits, life is likely to be torturous. Jamie Fresh, the high-flown teenage hero of composer Dan Gillespie Sells and authors Tom MacRae and the West End hit by Jonathan Butterell, are tenfold multiplied in the twentieth-extra century’s dance steps. Matt Ryan’s Sheffield Theatre show, touring the UK for the first time, sees Layton Williams slip into Jamie’s scarlet stilettos and Glad Rags once again on his way to enlightenment, self-determination and a whole new life after his own West End run.
The story of Jamie is based on a real-life soap opera that was partly acted out on reality TV, adding to the appeal of portraying a life with low aspirations that takes a leap towards a better life. This is done with a feel-good gimmick designed to encourage generations of Jamie’s would-be while asking for the kind of adult tolerance that the world might use right now.
As Jamie travels from the classroom to the runway by reaching the worn-out drag queen Hugo’s Dressing Up Box of Shane Richie from a shop, he learns that once he puts on a dress, he can deal with all his demons, whether it’s his wandering father or schoolboy thug Dean Paxton. Wise words come from Pritti, Jamie’s classmate, played by Sharan Phull, and Amy Ellen Richardson as Margaret, Jamie’s troubled mother. Jamie surfs with a lot of attitude at a Spartacus moment outside the prom and is brought to life by Williams with sass, pizzazz and just the right amount of insecurity.
This may be the most invigorating example yet of how nerds inherit the world, with a series of pop showtunes followed by shape-shifting ensemble routines choreographed by Kate Prince on the flexible classroom set of Anna Fleischile.