The enfant terrible of British Theatre, and one time friend and admirer of the late, great Sarah Kane Mark Ravenhill sprang to the limelight with his first play, Shopping and Fucking (1996) (or "Shopping and Flower arranging as it became coyly referred to in polite society). Ravenhill's drama is fundamentally political in nature, concerned with the commodification of social and sexual relationships, of the crumbling of value structures and ideology. Ravenhill writes of a lost youth, of sexual exchanges rendered emotionless financial transactions, of a desperate struggle to find personal meaning and worth.
Ravenhill's canon is acutely self-aware, consciously utilising the language of the postmodern. Ravenhill is deeply critical of much contemporary philosophy, of the writings of the likes of Jean Baudrillard and Micheal Foucault, which he criticises as being essentially reactionary, a retreat from notions of responsibility, and consequently irresponsible. The fiercly contemporary flavour of Ravenhill's dialogue taps into the syntaxes used by such commentators, with references to notions of the hyperreal, of grand narratives, but utilises them in order to posit appeals to notions of social responsibility.
Ravenhill's characters often resemble irresponsible, hedonistic, empty youth; the children, essentially, of Margaret Thatcher and her claim that "there is no such thing as society".
Ravenhill's plays are slick, funny, and irreverant. They brim with graphic sexual content, and often strongly violent imagery. Certainly, these are not plays for the easily offended. If you like your dystopias with a little tongue in cheek, and the occasional anal rape doesn't put you off, Ravenhill is one of the most exciting voices currently shouting in British Theatre.
Ravenhill had been open about being a gay man living with HIV, and the fire of his early works may perhaps be seen as endemic of his own fears for his life (around the time of Shopping and Fucking, Ravenhill was given a lumber punch, and predicted 3 months to live). Since this time, however, Ravenhill has responded well to treatment, and more recent interviews and work (specifically Mother Clap's Molly House) seem to display a more optimistic outlook and hopes for the future. Mark Ravenhill cites his favorite living playwright as being David Mamet, who he says "has such nice hair". Ravenhill has banned his parents from watching any of his plays. So it's probably best not to bring your Gran to see them either.
- Shopping and Fucking (1996)
- Faust Is Dead (1997)
- Handbag (1998)
- Some Explicit Polaroids (1999)
- Mother Clap's Molly House (2001)