'Shebada' stays close to roots
SINCE 2006, actor/comedian Keith 'Shebada' Ramsay has won over theatre-goers with his unique slapstick style.
The 25-year-old has starred in several roots plays including Bashment Granny 1& 2, Ghettout and Di Driva. He currently stars in Clash at Green Gables Theatre with Volier Johnson, Junior Reid and Garfield Reid.
Clash tells the story of upcoming artiste Higher Heights (Junior Reid) — who is 'hungry' to get his break in the dancehall industry. So hungry, he drops his manager and childhood friend Ravas (Shebada) and accepts a management contract from 'area leader' 'Baddadon' (Johnson).
Shebada can relate to such a situation, having grown up in Franklyn Town, a former middle-class area in east Kingston, now prone to spurts of violence.
"There were frequent arguments here. Everyday I get up, I had to argue with someone or others who were cussing each other out," Shebada said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week at his childhood home. "Those lines that I heard and probably told my 'opponents' become useful and assist me in the comedy world."
Although he no longer resides there, Shebada visits Franklyn Town daily to be with family and friends. Things have changed in the old neighbourhood.
"As a child, there were lot of gang wars but there were a lot of children's treat and parties. Thankfully, Franklyn Town is much calmer now but there are persons who are unemployed, some by choice," he said.
The goggle-eyed Shebada has led a revival of roots theatre in the last three years. Crowds pack the Green Gables Theatre, recalling the genre's heyday of the 1980s.
Roots plays have their critics who scoff at the acting and writing. However, Shebada is undeterred.
"Great talent override years of experience and Usain Bolt is a living proof. He doesn't have decades of experience but he is the world's fastest man. Being experienced doesn't necessarily mean being talented," he said.
The actor has a busy 2014 schedule. In addition to Clash, he is preparing for roles in Bashment Granny 3, Shebada in Charge Part 2 and Assylum.
Shebada, who describes himself as a devout Christian, hopes to make it on the silver screen.
"I want to spread my wings even further, I don't want to stay on stage forever," he said.