Peggy Ramsay

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Margaret Francesca "Peggy" Ramsay (née Venniker, 27 May 1908 – 4 September 1991) was a British theatrical agent.[1]

Early life[edit]

Although Ramsay was born to English parents in Molong, New South Wales, Australia,[2] her family eventually settled in South Africa by the end of the Great War in which her father served in the South African Medical Corps.[3] but during a brief and unhappy marriage came to England in 1929; her husband Norman Ramsay was under investigation in South Africa. After touring with an opera company, and a spell as an actress, she began reading scripts for a number of managements including that of Peter Daubeny,[4] later noted for organising annual 'World Theatre' Seasons.

Theatrical agent[edit]

As she was gaining no financial return from scripts she was finding, in 1953 her friends and acquaintances persuaded her to open her own agency, in which they invested. For her entire career her business was based in Goodwin's Court, an alley off St. Martin's Lane, London. She was able to buy out her partners in 1963, after the success of her first 'discovery', Robert Bolt.[1]

She represented many of the leading dramatists to emerge from the 1950s onwards, including Alan Ayckbourn, Eugène Ionesco, J. B. Priestley, Stephen Poliakoff and David Hare.[1] After discovering Joe Orton, then living on National Assistance,[5] she persuaded producer Michael Codron to stage Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane. Ramsay represented the dramatist, and then his estate, for the rest of her life. The 1978 biography of Orton by John Lahr, initiated by Ramsay in 1970, led to friction between the author and the playwright's former agent.[6]

Ramsay, whose last years were affected by the onset of Alzheimer's disease, died on 4 September 1991 in London. Her estate has established a foundation to help writers and writing for the stage. Her archive has been donated to the British Library.[7]

Portrayals and books[edit]

In Prick Up Your Ears (1987), the Orton film biopic based on the Lahr book, Ramsay is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave,[8] while in Peggy For You (1999), a play by Alan Plater[9] set in the late 1960s, Ramsay is placed centre stage. Two books have been written about Ramsay; the work by Colin Chambers cited below is a straightforward biography, while Simon Callow's memoir Love Is Where It Falls : The Story of a Passionate Friendship (1999) is an account of their close friendship.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Christopher Stevens Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams", London: John Murray, 2010, p.409 ISBN 1-84854-195-3
  2. ^ Colin Chambers Peggy: The Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent, London: Nick Hern Books, 1997, p.7
  3. ^ Chambers, p.8
  4. ^ John Lahr Prick Up Your Ears: The Life of Joe Orton, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002 [1978, 2000], p.144
  5. ^ Chambers, p.157
  6. ^ Colin Chambers Peggy: The Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent, London: Nick Hern Books, 1997, p.179-86
  7. ^ Zoe Wilcox "The Peggy Ramsay archive", The Writers Guild, 15 September 2010
  8. ^ "Peggy Ramsay, 83, An Agent in Britain Of Top Playwrights", New York Times, 7 September 1991
  9. ^ Michael Billington "Peggy For You", The Guardian, 24 November 1999
  10. ^ Laurence Watts "Interview: Simon Callow on Dickens, Peggy Ramsay and being gay", Pink News, 29 December 2011