The King and I - Ramon Tikaram interview
The Eastenders star set for role of King in Rodgers and Hammerstein musical
He’s played conflicted bisexual courier Ferdy in This Life, portrayed a tyrant in controversial dub punk opera Gaddafi and recently returned to Albert Square as the ruthless but charming father of Amira in Eastenders.
Seldom one to resist a challenge, next month Ramon Tikaram swaps the East End for Edinburgh as he steps into the-well heeled shoes of the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s enduring musical, The King and I.
‘At first I thought, six months touring over Christmas, maybe not; but who could pass up the chance to play the king?’ laughs Tikaram between rehearsals. ‘Like most people, I had seen the magnificent Yul Brynner play the lead as a boy, so I had to think, can I bring something new to this?’
The repressed love affair between the king and the widowed English governess he hires to teach his children has enjoyed a lasting legacy, with its memorable score (‘Getting to Know You’, ‘Shall We Dance’ etc) and multiple, lavish reinventions on stage and screen. It’s a role Tikaram was born to play. The son of a Fijian-Indian British Army soldier, he grew up on an Army Base, and spent much of his time singing and dancing his way through ‘a world of made-up stories’. Recent turns on the West End stage suggest he has the pipes and presence to master the part.
‘I’m excited,’ he says. ‘It’s a fascinating time in history and a story that still has relevance today.
‘The king has brought this woman into his life and is fascinated by her and her intelligence, yet he’s somehow immoveable because of what his traditions have taught him. His resistance to Anna is central. It’s that great relationship, set in this amazingly lavish, regal setting, which helps take the audience on a journey; and I’m looking forward to going on that journey with them.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 14 Dec–Sat 7 Jan