Yesterday Everybody’s Talking about Jamie opened in Edinburgh and audiences are loving this fabulous new musical. We had quick chat with Layton Williams before he went on stage to ‘slay it’ as ‘Jamie New’.
What’s your favourite musical number in the show and why?
And You Don’t Even Know It is fab because it’s the opening number and I get to sing and dance and do it all. Then I love the closing number Out Of The Darkness because I have my microphone in my hand and I feel like a real popstar.
What challenges does the role of Jamie present?
The rollercoaster of emotions is a lot to navigate. Being 16 years old is hard. I remember being 16 with all those hormones and stuff. There’s the acting side of all that, then there are so many songs. I have to keep my voice tight and right. That’s the difficulty - keeping myself on top form all the time so when I get out on stage I slay it.
For people who are new to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, how would you sum up the storyline?
Jamie is based on a real character who was the subject of a documentary on BBC Three. I remember watching it years ago and it was about him wanting to be a drag queen and wanting go to the school prom in a dress and how his mum Margaret supported him. When he got there there was all this hoo-hah, the teachers wouldn’t let him in, then something wonderful and unexpected happened, his school mates refused to go in without him. The basics of his story inspired the musical and it’s been given a bit of theatrical razzamatazz. Our story is about a 16-year-old boy who wants to be a drag queen and it’s about his relationship with his parents - including his dad, who he isn’t much in touch with. It’s about Jamie finding himself and his drag persona and, without giving anything away, what happens when he does eventually go to the prom.
What do you see as the key themes?
It’s about acceptance. This is a show for everyone, especially for today. The show is about a boy finding his path in life with the help of his close relationship with his incredible mum and her unconditional love for him. She loves him exactly as he is. A dad who isn’t supportive and lots of other characters that people will be able to relate to. It’s about family, friendship, trust and support. There are so many different, relatable characters in it - [laughs] although if you identify with the dad then have a word with yourself! And there’s so much diversity in the cast. Oh, and there are high heels, high kicks, drag queens, beautiful dresses, feather boas, some fantastic songs and brilliant dancing. It really is fun, funny and fabulous with a lump in your throat and a little tear.
How important is the theme of inclusion to audiences both young and old?
Very important. I get messages from older people who have been helped by the show, whether it’s helped them come out or helped them understand their children better. It does obviously speak directly to the LGBTQ+ youth but it’s not limited to one faction. So many people can relate to being an outcast or feeling different but after seeing the show they’ll feel, to quote one of the songs, there’s a place where they belong.
Having played Angel in Rent this isn’t your first time in heels, is it?
No, it isn’t. [Laughs] The heels thing is a doddle now.
Don't miss Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Festival Theatre, 3 to 7 Match 2019.