In Review

The return of live theatre: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Four Quartets and Amélie

Live theatre is ‘re-emerging from its long pandemic hibernation’ - and here's what the critics are recommending

Live theatre is re-emerging from its long pandemic hibernation, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph – and one of the first big shows to reopen is Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (at the Apollo Theatre). Back in 2017, I gave it a somewhat ungenerous four stars, but now, I’d nudge it up to “an ecstatic five”. You’d have to be a “total curmudgeon” not to warm to the “carpe diem spirit” of this hit musical about a bullied teenager who embraces his inner drag queen.

Jamie’s journey serves as a “rallying cry for us all to come out of our psychological bunkers”. Shane Richie is “a hoot” as Loco Chanelle, a faded drag act who becomes Jamie’s surrogate father. And the final clap-along number, Out of the Darkness, perfectly sums up “our need for self-liberation, a sense of belonging” – and the state of “Dame Theatre herself”.

For a rather more sombre theatrical event, there is Ralph Fiennes’ one-man staging of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, said Clare Brennan in The Observer. Merely to recite the set would be impressive enough: Eliot’s four-part meditation on the nature of time, faith, and the quest for spiritual enlightenment is nearly 1,000 lines long. But Fiennes “delivers it as performance and the result is astounding”.

The actor “inhabits the poems as he delivers them”, said Robert Gore-Langton in The Mail on Sunday – evoking multiple characters, and whisking us from Hampstead to the Mississippi to the Indian subcontinent. “I came out of the theatre reverberating with the gorgeous cascade of words, injected like a healing serum by Fiennes on flying form.” (At the Theatre Royal, Bath until 5 June, and then Northampton, Southampton and others to 31 July.)

If you are “nervously venturing back into the West End” and want to be reminded of “the profound imaginative power of theatre”, then Amélie: The Musical is your show, said Clive Davis in The Times. Michael Fentiman’s production has “more charm and less of a sugar coating” than the 2001 French film on which it is based.

Newly transferred and reopened at the Criterion on Piccadilly Circus, this “gorgeous Gallic fairy tale” occupies its new home “like a jewel in a Tiffany case”. It’s a “lip-licking délice of a show”, agreed Sam Marlowe in The i Paper. Designer Madeleine Girling has created a picture-postcard version of Paris, with a “perfect touch of dreamy surrealism”. As Amélie, the “gamine, liquid- eyed” Audrey Brisson sings with unaffected sincerity. And the whole thing “balances the joy and the ache so beautifully, that it’s impossible not to be seduced”.

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