Life is such a, delightful, drag
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (New Victoria Theatre Woking), is a sweet story about a sixteen-year-old lad, Jamie New (Finton Flynn), living on a Sheffield Council estate. When asked by his career’s teacher (remember them) says he would settle for their choice of a “proper job” as a forklift driver, but deep down he wants to be a drag queen. Some of his classmates are less forgiving of his effeminate nature and for “being away with the fairies.” What the hell he thinks and goes for it. We see him on his journey of self discovery and an initiation into the drag queen world by Hugo (John Partridge) – alter ego Loco Chanelle. From the moment Jamie shimmies into a vivid red dress and crimson club stilettos bought for him by his mum, there’s no turning back. The boy is set for drag stardom.
Mum Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis) backs him every stiletto step of the way. Supportive and resilient – she is also dealing with marriage breakdown from her son’s dad who is a sort – she is aided and abetted by close friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) and together they plot a path to success, not giving a toss what other people may think. With both catchy and anthemic songs, a divinity of drag queens, punctuated by Kate Prince’s witty choreography, and an emotional beating heart the show pulsates with pleasure and defiance. Flynn struts his stuff with gusto and his transition from vulnerable and unsure into a divine diva is delightful. He presents his songs well though his vocals are less strong. Meanwhile McKinnis is excellent as Jamie’s mum not allowing her social status to hold her or her son back. Better known for her various TV personas Gulati has a natural flair for comedy and delivers a volley of one-liners that epitomise working class humour, funny and self deprecating. And Talia Palamathanan is the standout singer and very likeable character of Pritti Pasha, Jamie’s best friend.
Georgina Hagen’s production is entertaining and enjoyable, if a little formulaic, and could do with some fine tuning in parts – one or two scenes outstay their welcome. That said, the energy of the cast – the school students are a bundle of fun and Partridge works hard in his weft of wigs – maintains a rhythm and momentum throughout culminating in the message song Out of the Darkness (A Place Where We Belong).
In 1967, actor Patrick McGoohan stunned and perplexed audiences with his ambitions, expensive, aesthetically unique and sometimes meandering passion project, The Prisoner. Who Is No. 1? (Courtyard Theatre) is a probe into the turbulent production of the show – a four-man production, Murray Simon plays McGoohan, while the rest of the cast play everyone else; financiers, producers, writers and actors who McGoohan alternately terrorises or is thwarted by in his struggle to get his show off the ground.
Simon is great as McGoohan – a monomaniacal auteur who always seems to be a hair’s breadth away from punching someone. It’s a fun, fast-paced production and it’s definitely made me excited to see more from The Foundry Group, the theatre collective that put it on. This is a play that rewards you for having a bit of knowledge about The Prisoner, but that’s not said with the intention of scaring anyone off – you might want to do a bit of homework first if you’re not familiar with the show.
Guy Masterson has another hit with George Orwell’s Animal Farm (Wilton’s Music Hall), a feat of acting and endurance, as he relentlessly and seamlessly morphs into the many characters with a dazzling energy whilst holding everything together beautifully. The narrative unfolds wit a dexterity that is testimony to an actor at the top of his craft. The almost empty stage set provides a suitably understated backdrop that gives the vibrant and vivid performance the pride of place it deserves, whilst deft use of lighting echoes moods and theme changes as the drama unfolds.
Orwell’s scathing condemnation of power, sleaze spin and political tactics comes across loud and clear in Masterson’s amazing adaptation and performance, leaving us in no doubt that this is a classic both as a book and in Masterson’s capable hands. A dynamic show.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – www.atgtickets.com
Who is No.1 – run complete
Animal Farm – run complete