It’s theatre day! It doesn’t quite seem real that this evening I will be stepping through the doors of a theatre for the first time since February 2020. The last thing I saw was ‘Touching the Void’ with my Mum back in London. Gosh that feels like another lifetime ago. So much has happened since then. But going back to theatre seems like a huge step back to some kind of normality. It’s a step that makes me very happy. For those of you who don’t know back in the pre-Covid days when I was living in London I was a Theatre Blogger for ‘London Theatre Direct’. It was a fantastic gig.
But back to today. The show I am going to see is ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. Which I have actually seen before back in London. I absolutely loved it so when I saw it was touring to Aberdeen I just had to (yes had to) buy a ticket. It’s a shame my t-shirt from the West End show doesn’t still fit or I could have turned up like a number one fan…
‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’ (which I could not recommend more highly) is a musical production which was first launched in 2017. It is all about becoming who you truly are without limits. It tells us how easy it is to get sucked into conformity. In the short term that might be easier. But it can never be right to hide our true selves. The plot gives the audience courage to follow their own dreams. Alongside that there are themes of family, friendship, sexuality and education. Both times I have seen ‘Jamie’ I have left feeling inspired and empowered. Believe me after lockdown we are all in need of a bit of a lift. There is also wonderful representation from LGBTQ to gender. It’s the only musical I have seen where one of the main characters is a Muslim Hijab wearer. ‘Jamie’ is leading the way in diversity in show business.
The story of ‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’ itself is based on a British TV documentary called ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ which came out in 2011. So it is loosely based on a true story which I think adds to the magic of it all. In brief (and also to avoid spoilers) the plot tells the story of Jamie New a recently turned 16 year old lad who dreams of becoming a drag queen. A dream that is being held back by school (particularly a lack of vision from his teacher); the classic school bullies; his dad; and perhaps most of all, his own self doubt. As the play goes on you watch Jamie grow in confidence and understanding of himself, helped along the way by his friends and his Mum Margaret. Jamie’s single Mum and his Aunt will warm your heart (unlike Jamie’s absentee father who will leave you seething). Margaret has a solo in the second half called ‘He’s my boy’ which is all about her being a parent and the challenge of when your kids get older and begin to drift away, it really hits me emotionally.
Whilst the music is no doubt the highlight of the performance, it is a musical after all, the use of set and scenery is really well done. It’s relatively simple set but by having rooms and probs that can be easily moved the audience is slid from location to another smoothly and clearly. The items there are really enhance the experience instead of cluttering the stage. That more simplistic staging allows the show to tour in almost the same form as it is shown in London. I’ll insert photos of the of the stage in London compared to Aberdeen.
But let’s return to show time. Here I am! I am in the theatre. Just crossing my fingers that no one tall sits in front of me. Only disadvantage of going to see shows when you are short. But the atmosphere and music will be wonderful no matter my view. I am really excited to be here but a little bit of my is nervous to be in such an enclosed space with so many people. It’s the kind of situation I have been attempting to avoid for 18 odd months. My anxiety is playing up a little, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. But I just know that as soon as the first notes ring out I’ll be absolutely fine. I am sharing this to normalise that fear that so many of us feel as things gradually open back up. Of course take things at your own pace but it’s okay to feel worried. We have been surrounded by messages telling us to stay home and distance for so long it’s just ingrained into us. But eventually normality has to come back and we want, we need, to get back to doing what we love. Nearly everyone in the audience was was wearing masks as well which was good to see. So let me reassure you if you are apprehensive about going back to the theatre, you’ll be fine. I am fine and you will be too.
I had forgotten what a beautiful building His Majesty’s Theatre (HMT) is. For those of you who don’t know HMT is the main theatre in Aberdeen. It is pretty big and can sit up to 1400 people. The theatre is part of the history of the city centre. it was completed in 1906 and so has been on the site for 115 years. For my fellow history fans according to Historic Environment Scotland the theatre is a “remarkable finely detailed Free Renaissance style” and has a “spacious well preserved interior, handsomely treated throughout in mixed baroque and neo-Jacobean strapwork decoration, much alabaster and marble”. Even if you aren’t a history or architecture fan the handsome interior adds to the feeling of occasion of going to the theatre. It feels a really special building to be inside.
Curtain call in 5 mins. The seats are all filling up fast. Luckily not too tall a person in front of me and the seats are well angled to allow you to see through gaps. I feel like I am back in the West End again but it’s Aberdeen. I love the fact that big shows and musicals are open to those not in London. You don’t have to travel and spend huge amounts of money. You can go local and the experience is still wonderful. I just want the lights to dim and the show to start! I am ready. Must just try not to sing a long…
The show is over and it was just fantastic. That post theatre high. You can’t beat it. And what an ending! I have never seen HMT like that. The whole theatre, every circle, from the stalls to the gods, everyone was on their feet clapping, cheering, screaming. The noise was absolutely amazing. And that feeling of all these people who had come together for a great evening and that everyone was leaving feeling that little bit happier. You would struggle to beat that level of applause at a west end show. Aberdeen can be pretty amazing! I was just grinning my face off by the end. I want to bottle that moment, that feeling and come back to it. But seeing as I can’t do that I’ll just have to book another show as soon as I possibly can. But for now the soundtrack is going on and I am car karaoking my way home. And you bet I am singing at the top of my voice.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS. INTO THE SPOTLIGHT!