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Beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is about a young teenage boy who wants to dress like a girl. Jamie is not a transgender and he is not necessarily gay. His dream is to be a drag queen. The play is about how it’s fulfilled and how he emerges a hero for the audience.

columns Updated: Jan 06, 2018 18:49 IST
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,Theatre,Cinema
The cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie perform at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2017 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on December 3, London(Dave Benett/Getty Images)

I would say the theatre is a better reflection of a people, their values and attitudes, than the cinema. For instance, make belief or escapist fantasy is more difficult on stage than on celluloid. Conversely, the immediacy of a play can be more telling than the directness of a film. A musical drama I saw in London last week is the example I’m going to tell you about today.

Called ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ and set in the British Midlands town of Sheffield, it’s about a young teenage boy who wants to dress like a girl. Jamie is not a transgender and he is not necessarily gay. His dream is to be a drag queen. The play is about how it’s fulfilled and how he emerges a hero for the audience.

Before I tell you more, let me put this play in perspective. At the moment the hip-hop American musical Hamilton is the talk of the town. It’s completely sold out and touts are said to be selling tickets in the black market for over a thousand pounds. The truth is everyone’s talking about Hamilton and Jamie is hardly mentioned. But that’s a travesty.

I’ve seen both and I won’t deny Hamilton is very good. But Jamie is not just outstanding and exceptional, it’s unique. Ultimately, Hamilton isn’t worth the king’s ransom you pay to see it. Jamie deserves every penny and considerably more of the normal theatre price it costs.

Now back to why Jamie is a play Britain should be very proud of. In many, if not most, societies a boy wanting to dress as a girl would be a family tragedy and a public embarrassment. He would be consigned to the shadows, shut up behind locked doors and never spoken of. Let’s be honest, that’s how we would treat him in India. But not in this play which is what makes it so special.

In its working class Yorkshire setting, Jamie’s ambition is treated as a joyous celebration of life. Be true to yourself and what the rest of the world thinks doesn’t matter, is one half of the lesson this play teaches. The other is even more important. When you are, the world will accept you for what you want to be and many will, eventually, come to respect you for it.

For two and a half hours the audience laughs and cries with Jamie and his Mum who encourages and defends him. His school chums, who support him, unlike his teacher, who cannot accept and doesn’t realise she’s being horribly cruel, forcefuly make the point that the young are often wiser than the elderly.

Finally, when Jamie attends the school prom in a cream dress, matching stiletto heels, a blonde wig and make up the play reaches its beautiful climax. No doubt Jamie makes a stunning girl but the real magic of the moment you’re witnessing is the beauty of a fulfilled human dream and, though it defies custom and convention, its acceptance and respect by Jamie’s friends and neighbours. Only his Dad, an old curmudgeon, is the odd man out.

The applause when the play ended was thunderous and prolonged. It quickly turned into a standing ovation. Not surprisingly, Dad was booed.

So, if you’re planning a visit to London this year beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see Jamie. You’ll never see anything like it in India. In fact, I’d bet you won’t see anything like it again in your life.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jan 06, 2018 18:32 IST