Review by Rosie Holmes
Cabaret artist Keith Ramsay takes to the stage in a show that is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Ramsay uses his obsession with the 1950 film All About Eve to explore queer stories, love, sabotage and the desire to rise to the top. It would be unfair to simply call this a cabaret piece, when Ramsay’s Eve: All About Her is an engaging work of theatre, layered with songs and a relentless energy. The show had a highly successful run at Edinburgh Fringe last year, winning multiple awards, and as a lover of fringe theatre, I was very excited to see what this intriguing show was all about.
Ramsay uses his obsession with the Joseph L Mankiewicz film, All About Eve, as the launchpad for the evening. He showcases his obsessive knowledge by performing a rundown of, essentially, the credits for the film – reciting the names of costume designers, the producers, etc. He explains that while some of us may idolise, for example, Beyoncé, he idolises Eve, the titular character from the classic film. What ensues is a narrative that follows a performer who wants nothing more than to get to the top but laments the loss of those along the way who did not make it. Throughout the narrative there are tonnes of cultural references to queer icons, and Ramsay clearly knows his audience as these mentions are consistently met with cheers.
Ramsay’s storytelling is magnetic and unusual. He first appears barefoot, sat on a chair, wide eyed. He works at lightning speed throughout the show, full of energy as he takes on different personas, impersonating many stars of stage and screen. No accent, it seems, is too much for him, and his impressions of stars including the iconic Bette Davis are simply wonderful. With the show being so unusual, he songs he performs as part of the show are a welcome breather, a chance to relax and enjoy Ramsay’s wonderful voice. Amongst others we were treated to renditions of ‘Losing my Mind’, ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ and ‘Back to Black’, all performed so stunningly, that during the first song I even watched intently to see if Ramsay was lip syncing. While the songs offer a more controlled element to the show, the rest is frenzied and urgent, and Ramsay makes the audience almost feel as if anything could happen next, as every tale appears to offer a different tangent to explore.
The show is potentially divisive – wonderful in its exploration of queer mythology and experimental performance, however, it did take me a little while to understand this manner of storytelling. It can be challenging to follow and I’m sure this meant I didn’t fully understand all the nuance and meaning behind Ramsay’s work. There were still plenty of enjoyable moments, but I often found it hard to comprehend when one story was starting and another ending, although perhaps this was a deliberate choice. Every minute contained cultural references, poetic writing, pastiche and more, clearly demonstrating all of Ramsay’s wonderful talent, but at times hard to keep up with.
This show truly is unlike anything I have ever seen and no doubt shows Ramsay off as a wonderful and inventive performer and creator. The adoration for queer culture is evident, and this is joyous to see as Ramsay celebrates queerness with vibrancy, energy, and not to mention his sheer talent. Eve: All About Her is dark, funny, and a showcase for its magnetic performer.
Eve: All About Her plays at Soho Theatre until 26th August 2023, more information and tickets can be purchased here- Eve: All About Her - Soho Theatre
Photos by Steve Ullathorne