Love, loss and a battle against Covid

It’s been with greater relief than most perhaps that Shobna Gulati has got back on the road with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the feel-good musical which is Brighton’s Christmas treat.

Shobna Gulati (Ray) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour. Photo credit Matt Crockett
Shobna Gulati (Ray) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour. Photo credit Matt Crockett

It will be at the Brighton Theatre Royal from December 7-January 2 and then the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from January 4-8 – a comeback from Shobna in more ways than one.

She was seriously ill with Covid last year.

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“I am so relieved to be back on the road,” she says. “It has been a long 18 months!

“I was in the show when the pandemic started and it has been devastating for everybody. At the start we just didn’t realise the extent to which Covid would affect everybody. I’ve lost friends and it has been so difficult.

“And I had Covid. I was seriously ill. I had it from the March and April and I was in hospital by August. I was in and out of hospital, checking, checking, checking on my lungs. It was not good. It affected me really badly. I had three or four bouts of pneumonia as a secondary infection. Obviously it affects the weakest part of you.

“I thought that I might not make it and so during that time I wrote my book Remember Me? Discovering My Mother as She Lost Her Memory (published September 2020), about my relationship with my mum who we lost in November 2019. I think I’d have written it anyway but without Covid I would probably have written it with much more time and ease. I just felt I needed to share her story and there was an urgency about it because I was really, really ill.

“The interesting thing about lockdown was that at the time everybody was locked down and I couldn’t help wondering what my mum would have felt about it all, what her brain would have allowed through. The book was important to write, to share what happens when you care for somebody that you love deeply and you are watching them slipping away and you are trying to understand what is happening. I hope that it helps raise awareness and it makes people that read it who are in that situation not feel so alone. I don’t know that it resolves anything at all for me really but it helps me with my grief. I lost my mum in the November and by the September the following year the book came out.”

Working, with the resumption of the Jamie tour, is another way of coping: “For me it has always been my way to resolve anything that’s going on in my personal life, to work. I use my work in a very personal way. My escape is into that world of work. It is great to live as another character.”

Especially when that character is part of such an important message.

Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. Jamie is going to be a sensation.

Supported by his loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.

“The story really matters and to have been part of it on tour and in the West End and now on screen has been great. We are reaching different parts of the world where there are young people trying to find out their own authentic self. The Jamie journey is an acceptance of oneself and that is so crucial. It is so important to understand that there is a place where you belong and I think that’s what really resonates with this piece.”