Carry On Jamie: “Or Don’t”

Does anyone remember watching The IT Crowd? Bear with me, it becomes relevant. In one episode they go on a work outing to the theatre to see a musical. It obviously ends with hilarity: Roy pretends to be disabled and Moss becomes a bartender, but it’s the musical they see which stands out here. They see a musical called “Gay”. We never see more than snippets of it and it seems painfully stereotypical, but the audience loves it. Jen even asks her date if he’s gay (he is) because he’s “laughing like mad at every gay reference”.

Welcome to my evening.

I don’t use the phrase “lowest common denominator humour” lightly, but this was utter drivel. Every camp utterance got screams of laughter from the audience, every sassy put down got cheers and standing ovations. Maybe there was some strong and meaningful message, meant to change how we view drag queens, or teenage homosexuals, or homophobia, but really that was lost behind the facade of cheap laughs and penis jokes. Think of it as a Carry On film without the hilarity. Take the plotlines to any gay character from Hollyoaks, condense them into two and a half hours and throw some (admittedly catchy, but familiar) songs in there and you have this musical.

The music was good. Though seriously, do we expect anything less than good from Dan Gillespie Sells? The Feeling, of which he is the frontman, have shown time again that they are capable of creating memorable and catchy riffs and Dan managed this again here. There was a moment I thought I was watching a recreation of Vogue, down to the arm movements, but I’m hoping that was the point and wasn’t just a blatant rip off.

I don’t understand the obsession playwrights have to repeatedly include the name of the place where the production is being shown. This isn’t a White Snake (kids, ask your dad) concert, we don’t need a “Hello Sheffield!” to make us feel involved, so the repeated references to Meadowhall and well known places in Sheffield is ridiculous. It was incredibly evident they had been included simply to get an applause and in my humble opinion it just sounds insincere.

While this may be very critical then I appreciate how much work must have gone into this production. The sets were brilliant, especially how they could be repurposed for different scenes in a fluid manner. Obviously a lot of time and effort had gone into the choreography as it appeared flawless with an incredible scene with Barney Hudson and Harriet Payne (forgive me if I’ve named the wrong woman) which was some of the finest dance I’ve ever seen. Pritti (Lucie Shorthouse) had a stunning voice and I’m sure she is going to go on to do great things, after hearing her in this then producers will be fighting to snap her up, so she’s definitely one to watch. The teacher (Tamsin Carroll) also had a brilliant voice and a surprising amount of stage presence, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see her in more prominent roles after this. The mother (Josie Walker) was able to stir emotion in a very memorable song, accompanied by the aforementioned dancers, and her best friend (Mina Anwar) has brilliant comedic timing. I really have nothing bad to say at all about the cast, you can really tell they gave this production their all, it’s just a shame the script felt so badly written. Maybe not even badly written, perhaps it’s just lazily written. Instead of sticking to one important message then many different ones were thrown out there to see what sticks. The best example of this was when the the teacher left a message for a man she’d been on a date with, asking for another. We got the impression this wasn’t the first time she’d left a message and so far hadn’t had a reply. This wasn’t mentioned or elaborated on ever again. Either it was a failed attempt at character development or we are led to believe that her own depressing love life is the reason she keeps telling the kids to “be real” and basically not strive for unrealistic things (such as doing drag). If it’s the latter reason then it is seriously lazy storytelling, to the point of insulting the audience for thinking they’ll buy that. Though who knows, maybe the people laughing hysterically around me do buy it. I just worry that things like this which highlight the most damaging aspects of LGBT life are not helpful in promoting LGBT rights, but are detrimental. I don’t want to get bogged down in the “are LGBT people damaging themselves with Pride and things like this which emphasise how different we are”, so I’ll leave it there.

Everyone may be talking about Jamie, let’s just hope they stop.

If you haven’t seen The IT Crowd then the whole box set is on 4oD, I highly recommend you give it a go. This musical, not so much.

Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is running until the 25th of February at Sheffield Theatres, if you’re easily amused by flashing lights, cheap gags and glitter then you should probably check it out.

Carl

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