27th July 2023
Interview & Editor: Owen James Vincent
Photography: Robert Day
Keith Ramsay joined the award winning play 'The Play That Goes Wrong' earlier this year as Dennis, who plays the accident-prone butler, Perkins in The Murder at Haversham Manor. We chat to Ramsay about getting the role, rehearsing the mistakes and stunts and we ask if there are any dream roles he would love to try.
Hi Keith. You’re starring in the hit comedy West End show ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. I’ve seen this show with my partner and it’s bloody incredible. What made you audition for the role of Dennis?
Aah, thank you! So very glad you enjoyed it! I love Dennis- he was and remains still a slight riddle to me; and he continues to take me to places that are oft’ surprising, moving, disturbing & complex which, truthfully, I never thought I’d get to explore going into a long-running west-end comedy!
I’m always attracted to the dark & bewitching parts of people and to me, Dennis is a truly beautiful catastrophe of fear, anxiety, melancholia and courage - which is a great challenge to play as an actor as well as being a very brilliant puzzle that, truthfully, I’m still working on. He keeps evolving! Balancing the on/offstage lives, worlds and humanities of the characters is a continual challenge.
There are so many moments that go wrong in the show, what was it like rehearsing these?
Truly, rehearsing it was a lot of fun and a very informative learning curve ! The creative team very knowingly blocked us through the version of the show within the show -(‘The Murder At Haversham Manor’) that ‘goes right’ - first & foremost so we all had a collective understanding of the actual murder mystery and it’s sensibilities & relationships. We then returned to the beginning & re-rehearsed it - intricately punctuating the blocking with the many mistakes/stunts etc . Clever stuff!
Other rehearsal moments that involve water, fire and magic are, of course, top secret, I’m afraid!
What would you say is your favourite part of the show?
Without giving anything away- the last ten pages/ 15 minutes of the show is like this epic, gladiatorial, clown-ballet of stunts/tricks and reveals- and (especially on the 8th show of the week) it’s like the final sprint of a really epic marathon. There’s this almost collective agreement between us all as a company to take a breath and nail the final denouement of the play. That’s my favourite bit!
I also like waiting backstage in the dark at the top of the show too when the working lights go out, listening to Doris Day or The Sex Pistols normally…
Has there been anything that’s happened on stage that wasn’t supposed to?
Nothing as yet! Although I have quite a fun story about a production of Anthony & Cleopatra in which they had a live snake that got lost during a performance…they did find it eventually! Snuggled up in a box of props…
Who would you say is your role model?
So many! As an actor, I look up to artists who carry a lot of singularity and bring strong senses of themselves to their work- Malkovich, Sandy Dennis, Charles Laughton, Kathryn Hunter to name but a few. I also respect people that work across lots of different mediums; actor/writer/director John Cameron Mitchell is a big inspiration as well as independent artists that reinvent & play with form- Bryony Kimmings, Meow Meow, Dr Brown & Lucy McCormick.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing down the line of your career? Any dream roles you would like to try?
I’d like to work more overseas- in Europe or across the pond maybe & beyond and I’d love to be able to fuse different art forms more. I used to work a lot in sideshow/cabaret & would love to combine that more with acting and the theatre.
I’m unsure as to dream roles- a Tennessee Williams play is on the bucket list somewhere. There are parts I’ve always loved and come back to- the Emcee in Cabaret, Richard II & I reckon I’d love to play Charlie Chaplin one day!
Mostly I fantasise about movie directors I’d like to get the opportunity to work with- Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, Baz Luhrman, Almodovar- but this is VERY wishful thinking!