Everybody's Talking About Jamie: Sheffield Lyceum musical star Layton Williams speaks about his role
The show was created by Sheffield Theatres, with John McCrea in the lead role at the Crucible in 2017.
Layton has appeared as Jamie at the Lyceum Sheffield before, when he also starred alongside Shane Richie as his drag mentor Hugo/Loco Chanelle. The duo are back together for this tour, which appears at the Lyceum from Monday, April 11 to Saturday 16. The show is currently sold out.
Layton has also just led the cast in the show’s US debut in Los Angeles, finishing in February. Here, he answers some questions about the show.
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.
‘It really is fun, funny and fabulous’
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. It’s not just for people who are into RuPaul’s Drag Race and stuff like that. 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!
‘There’s so much vulnerability to him’
And there’s so much diversity in the cast. The real Jamie is white and I’m not but that wasn’t even a question for the producers and creatives - which is so refreshing and so fab, like just ‘He’s right for the role’ and that’s how it should be.
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.
Do you know the real Jamie and have you based your performance on him?
Yes, I know Jamie Campbell, he’s a really lovely guy. I rewatched the documentary once I got the part. There a few things he does, like a few little dance moves, that I’ve put into the show. And with him as a person, I take some of his isms and personality traits.
On the surface he might come across as someone who is really confident and fab and out-there, but as with lots of people you don’t really know what’s going on behind closed doors. There’s so much vulnerability to him. That’s something I don’t necessarily have myself. I’m always getting notes from the director about tapping into Jamie’s vulnerability. I try to stay as true to him and his story as I can because I want to do it justice.
Does the show resonate for you on a personal level?
Yes it does. I’m a queer boy from a council estate up North, so we have that in common. Me and my mum have had our moments in the past and sometimes on stage I’m thinking about the things we’ve been through. We always patch things up but families go through stuff. And my upbringing wasn’t rosy.
As I say, I was a gay boy on a council estate and as much as I tried to hide it I had a few things coming my way. It’s not been the easiest ride but I put it into my art.