‘The King’s a complete despot but then he melts’

The King and I, starring Ramon Tikaram and Josefina Gabrielle, is being performed at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 20-24.  PICTURE: CREDIT CATHERINE ASHMORE
The King and I, starring Ramon Tikaram and Josefina Gabrielle, is being performed at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 20-24. PICTURE: CREDIT CATHERINE ASHMORE
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No-one can say that Ramon Tikaram hasn’t played a variety of roles.

The actor played bi-sexual Ferdy in This Life, a controversial Gaddafi in the contemporary opera Gaddafi: A Living Myth, a football manager in Dream Team, and has even regularly cropped up in EastEnders as the hard-hearted and brutal Qadim Shah.

But it’s something completely new for the actor as he takes on the iconic role of the King of Siam in The King and I.

On his first ever national tour, Ramon says: ‘Everything’s going very well. We’re getting great receptions and most of the houses have been full.

‘I love the idea of visiting lots of different places and seeing how the rest of the country ticks.

‘It’s a whole shift in mindset and you miss your family and things, but it’s a new experience.’

By Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I is based on memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who became governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

The story follows the experiences of a British schoolteacher who is hired to modernize the King’s country. The relationship between the King and Anna is rocky from the start, and is marked by a love they can’t express.

Ramon says: ‘It’s one of those roles as an actor of colour that I wanted to do because there aren’t that many massive roles.

‘It also occurred at the right age because I’m 40-something and that’s the right age to play the King.

‘He’s written as a complete despot but then he melts.’

The tour continues for a couple more months, arriving at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 20-24, but it just shows Ramon’s hesitation at being involved in long-term projects.

He adds: ‘I wouldn’t want to be in a long-term project because it closes your options.

‘In EastEnders I make an appearance, but they are quite infrequent and I don’t have to do massive amounts for it.

‘But I love musical theatre and I love doing films. You know, making 30 seconds of actual footage a day is a real luxury.’

He’s currently appearing in White Heat on BBC2.

Ramon plays the older version of Ray, as he looks back at his time living with a group of university students in 1965.

‘It’s like an acting master class,’ Ramon explains, ‘with people like Juliet Stevenson, Paul Copley and Lindsay Duncan!’

n Tickets for The King and I cost £17 to £34.50 from the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on (023) 8071 1811 or go to mayflower.org.uk.