Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

This February, Sheffield will play host to a new musical combining the talents of Broadway and West End director and choreographer Jonathan Butterell, Dan Gillespie Sells of The Feeling, and acclaimed television writer Tom MacRae. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is an original musical, based loosely on the BBC documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.

Director Jonathan Butterel talked me through the inspirations and aspirations of the play.

How did the idea for the project come about?

It was something I thought about three years ago now, and took the idea to [Sheffield Theatres Artistic Director] Daniel Evans. I had watched Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 and became interested in telling this story as a musical set in Sheffield. I wanted to do something big and popular. It feels like a niche story, but for me it was about bringing the piece to Sheffield and making it about the community of this area, particularly the north-east of the city. The story is about a boy who wants to go to school in a dress, but it’s ultimately a coming of age story.

How did Dan and Tom become attached?

They had actually met before and had discussed the idea of writing a musical together, Tom through his screenwriting and Dan through his pop music. We kept to the idea that writing a musical is very much like writing an album. As such, I think these songs stand alone within the idiom of pop, as well as working within the play.

You're from Sheffield originally. Is this your first production back in your home city?

It is and I feel quite emotional about it. I was born on Park Hill Flats and this city is extremely important to me. This production has felt like coming home.

The original documentary was about a working-class community and I really wanted to set it here, in a working class part of Sheffield that I understood. I also felt the story lends itself to that setting. Jamie Campbell gave his permission for this production, but we were quite clear we wanted to tell our own story based on the idea.

You have already talked to local schools about the play. How did this go?

Absolutely brilliantly. We’ve been to schools all over Sheffield to talk through this story and get their thoughts on it, and the biggest take away has been one of complete acceptance. The subject was awkward for some and not for others. It’s a complex issue, but one we found embraced everywhere by kids from different backgrounds and religions.

Do you think the timing of this play is important?

It’s not a political piece. It’s about being open and honest. The biggest lesson Jamie has to learn is overcoming the shame and disgust of others, not his own. The thing which gives me great positivity about the current state of the world is that young people are moving onwards and upwards in their thinking. In one of the schools we visited, there were four transgender pupils. Kids are talking about being non-binary and not being pigeon-holed. This is being discussed by our youth every day.

What are your aspirations for this production?

For it to be a success in this city and go beyond it, we hope. We have a good run and it’s already being looked at for an extension. If we do it again, we need to ask whether to take Sheffield to other places or rewrite for every place we go. We want to make this an open story that’s for everybody, not just a young person’s piece. It has teenage and adult perspectives throughout. This is a big, loud and fun production. Parents don’t know everything, school isn’t always brilliant, but it’s about what you take into the world from what you’ve been given.

Phill James

Everybody's Talking About Jamie opens at the Crucible on 9 February 2017.

sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

The Great Gatsby

In times when the face of American politics and values have been so challenged, could there be a more poignant time for The Great Gatsby to hit Theatre Delicatessen as an immersive production? Director Alexander Wright answers our questions on bringing the piece to life and the ever-elusive American Dream.

Why adapt The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby is a hugely seminal story. It sits at a point in history which really feels like it resonates with a lot of our society today. At its heart, it's perhaps a story about desperately wanting things we can never quite have. It's a big discussion about reaching too far for something, and about glamourising the past.

The idea of the American Dream and the sort of ambition and sociological mindset that it suggests has a hugely powerful and contemporary pertinence. Narratively, it gives us a lot of tension to play with. It's a joy to be able to expose a darker underbelly of both ends of that instilled ambition.

What made you choose an immersive style of theatre for such a classical novel?

It's such a rich and textured world, which is perfect to ask an audience to be a part of - to invite an audience to dance and drink and play as guests at one of Jay Gatsby's soirées. But the heart of the story is about people - their wants and their desires and their failings. By inviting an audience into such a heightened and glorious world, we can then bring them on a really amazing journey.

How are you using the space at Theatre Delicatessen?

The space operates like a whole other atmosphere or character in the show. As we work through the rehearsal process, the space will transform along with the narrative, so the performers will develop their narratives and we'll build the world alongside that.

Erin Lawlor

The Great Gatsby runs at Moor Theatre Delicatessen from 1 to 31 December. Tickets are available at £20/£15 from theatredelicatessen.co.uk.


STAGE LISTINGS

Boris: The Musical
Tues 20 & Weds 21 Dec | 7:30pm | Library Theatre | Pay What You Decide

Back by popular demand - perhaps the opposite of the man himself - this ruddy-faced romp of a musical comes highly recommended. Boris and his Johnson in full view.
boristhemusical.com

Comfort and Joy
Mon 12 - Sat 17 Dec | 7:30pm | Lantern Theatre | £10/£8.50/£7

"Long-buried resentments rear their ugly heads as the alcohol flows and tongues are loosened." Ring any bells? Mike Harding's Christmas comedy comes to the Lantern stage.
lanterntheatre.org.uk

Jamie Wood – O No!
Thu 9 Feb | 7:45pm | Studio Theatre | £12.50/£10

Any show described as "a psychedelic ride and a wonky homage to the woman damned for destroying The Beatles" is worth a shot in our books. Jamie Wood's O No! was popular in Edinburgh last year. It explores optimism, art and whether we might yet have things to learn from the hippies.
sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Mark Thomas – The Red Shed
Fri 10 & Sat 11 Feb | 7:45pm | Studio Theatre | £17.50/£15.50

Ah, Mark Thomas. Never a dull moment, never a bad idea. The Red Shed is the third and final part in a trilogy which includes past shows, Bravo Figaro and Cuckooed. Thomas casts his mind back to the Wakefield Labour Club, where he first performed, reminiscing on strikes, placards, communists, love and friendship. Age guidance 16+.
sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Bridget Christie – Because You Demanded It
Tue 21 Feb | 7:45pm | Studio Theatre | £17.50

Following her incredibly successful debut book, A Book For Her, and associated tour, comic Bridget Christie casts her acerbic eye over Brexit. Age guidance 16+.
sheffieldtheatres.co.uk