Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the inspiring and heart-warming story of Jamie New, a young drag artist, and the battle he faced trying to be himself in his small northern community. But the true story of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is that of Jamie Campbell.
The musical was inspired by the 2011 BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, which followed a year eleven boy’s decision to wear a dress to prom, and the fall out when his teachers tried to ban him.
The real-life inspiration for Jamie New is called Jamie Campbell. Now 22, Jamie grew up in an old mining village near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, a small market town in the northeast of England. Growing up, Jamie says he would always play dress up in his mum’s clothes and shoes, describing himself as a ‘naturally flamboyant’ kid.
Jamie came out as gay at only 14. He said that as he grew older, the teasing in primary school about him being girly turned into harsher bullying about his sexuality, even from adults around him.
The real-life Jamie credits so much of his strength in the face of this bullying to his mum, Margaret being supportive in the face of everything, assuring him that there was nothing wrong with being different.
At the end of year eleven, the school prom was coming up and Jamie was jealous of all the girls getting excited about their glamourous dresses, while his only option was to wear a suit. After chatting to his mum about, she simply asked him why he shouldn’t go to prom in a dress, and he decided that he would.
The idea to contact a documentary team to film all of this actually came from concerns about Jamie’s safety – he thought that people would be less likely to beat him up or cause too much trouble if the whole thing was being filmed.
The film follows the journey Jamie took after deciding to come out in his drag persona for prom; finding an outfit and a wig; learning how to apply make-up; putting on a drag show for the very first time. He struggled to find anywhere in and around Bishop Auckland that would let him try on any dresses in the shop and ended up ordering something online.
When some of the parents at his school found out what Jamie was planning, they called the school to complain and the school told Jamie not to turn up in a dress. When he got there, to his surprise, he arrived to cheers, but teachers told him he wouldn’t get in.
Slowly, the students started to hear about what was happening, and more and more kids came out to beg the teachers to let him in until eventually he was allowed in, flowing blonde wig, floor length dress and all.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie took inspiration from this coming-of-age tale about finding comfort in your own identity in the face of bullying and discrimination.
The story’s not 100% the same, with the main character re-named as Jamie New and some of the specific details of the story changed. But Jamie Campbell himself said he was shocked by how much the details and sentiments of the writers’ story mirrored his own.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is warm, funny and has Jamie Campbell and his mum’s enthusiastic seal of approval. You can grab your tickets for the all-singing, all-dancing sensation at the Apollo Theatre below. It’ll be the perfect treat once theatre’s reopen!