The story of ingenue Eve Harrington’s ruthless aim to be a star has had several incarnations – from Mary Orr’s original short story, to the Bette Davis/ Anne Baxter movie from 1950, and the Broadway musical sensation Applause. Now cabaret star Keith Ramsay gives a new slant in his eclectic, frenetic, roller coaster 65 minute prequel to the film life of Eve.
In black suit, loosely tied black tie, white shirt sticking out of his trousers on one side, tousled hair and heavy mascara, it’s a very deliberate look: wide-eyed, childlike, with manic rushing from subject to subject. It’s almost as if he daren’t settle his thoughts anywhere.
Ramsay frequently holds his head with his hands, like he’s trying to keep Eve’s thoughts inside but constantly failing as they and his imagination come tumbling towards us. There are literary snippets from Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Virginia Woolf, the film script, and many more you don’t have time to work out before he’s moved on to more streams of his consciousness. Its’s absolutely gripping theatre.
We get Eve’s earlier life, scenes in a bathhouse, cabaret rooms and apartments, and even a hospital. When you’re starting to lose a grip on the speed of it all, Ramsay cleverly interpolates powerful songs that underline the narrative. His vocal range is staggering and there are emotional, storming versions of the turbulent Sinatra love ballad I’m A Fool To Want You, of Sondheim’s Losing My Mind, Dream A Little Dream, As Time Goes By, Back to Black and a manic, screaming version of Madonna’s Vogue.
“You bump into your past when you’re looking for your future,” Ramsay tells us early on. We are exposed to a story, non-linear, about blind ambition, the creation of a persona, and equally the disintegration of a mind. Quoting Maria Callas, Ramsay/Eve tells us: “I live for art; I live for love”.
You can’t take your eyes off Ramsay in this breakneck piece of performance art. He rightly stormed to award winner at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and looking back at reviews it’s clear the show has developed. Where next it will take him will be fascinating to look out for. Its a five-star production and one you need to see more than once. As the older actress Margo famously tell us: “fasten your seatbelt; it’s going to be a bumpy night”.
Eve: All About Her was at Soho Theatre Downstairs.
Photo by Steve Ullathorne