Mark Ravenhill

Plays by Mark Ravenhill

Citizenship

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Citizenship is a bittersweet one-act comedy about growing up, following a boy's frank and messy search to discover his sexual identity.

Tom dreams of being kissed, but he’s not sure whether by a man or by a woman, and he feels he should choose pretty quickly. His friends’ homophobic teasing and interrogations about what he did with his friend Amy the other night leave Tom no space to make up his mind, and he’s got no one to ask for advice, except maybe people on the internet.

Citizenship captures adolescent confusion with a witty and sensitive charm, crackling with humorous and authentic dialogue.

Ravenhill’s play was developed as part of the National Theatre Connections 2005 Programme and premiered in the Cottesloe at the National Theatre, London.

The Coronation of Poppea

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Coronation of Poppea, freely adapted from the libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello for L'incoronazione di Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi, depicts the triumphant adultery between Poppea and the Roman emperor Nero. Ravenhill updates Tacitus’s scathing portrayal of imperial degeneracy with language which is contemporary, spare and brutally powerful.

This version of the The Coronation of Poppea opened at the King’s Head theatre, Islington, in April 2011, in a production directed by the author.

The Cut

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Cut is the story of Paul, the dystopia he lives in, and a streamlined system of oppression with a monstrous, throbbing pain at its core.

In a government office, surrounded by administrative forms and directives, Paul administers the Cut. He isn’t used to doing it to someone so keen, but John is impatient, he’s fantasised about it, about emptiness, about being… free. Disarmed by John’s enthusiasm for the incredible pain of the Cut, Paul’s bureaucratic armour cracks to reveal a man tortured by his profession and by society’s disgust. Paul’s conversations with his wife - who doesn’t know what he does but only that he can’t stop crying - and finally with his son are sparse and serrated, as he struggles with his conscience and with his horror.

Ravenhill’s dark unspeakable symbol gives this story of oppression an indefinable and irresistible force.

The Cut premiered in 2006 at the Donmar Warehouse, London.

Faust is Dead

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Faust is Dead is about existence: virtual, metaphorical, philosophical and suddenly real. It is a dark, shocking and often brutally funny meditation on our world of virtual reality.

The world’s most famous philosopher arrives in Los Angeles, where he is greeted as a star and announces the Death of Man and the End of History on the David Letterman show. After being sacked from his university position for the use of an offensive anecdote, he decides to ‘live a little’. He wakes in the company of a young man who is on the run from his father, a leading software magnate, and they embark on a tense and hedonistic journey across America, in which they discover that the translation from simulation to reality is a shocking one.

Blending Michel Foucault’s philosophy with the Faustian archetype, a play emerges that is intellectual, visceral and defiant. The play was first produced by the Actors’ Touring Company in 1997.

Handbag

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Handbag is an angry, satirical, penetrating play about parenthood, which collides a reimagining of events from Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest with the life of a newborn baby in the nineties, the child of a lesbian couple and a gay couple.

The play opens on Mauretta and Suzanne, and David and Tom; the two couples plan to have a child together than will never be abandoned or neglected, as it will have four parents instead of two. But when the baby is born, fear and infidelity creep into their familial fantasy. Ravenhill introduces Lorraine, whose consumer habits are being intimately studied by Suzanne, and Phil, a young man whom David pays for sex.

Running alongside this narrative is the spoof story of Agatha, Miss Prism and the Moncrieff family – names recognisable from Wilde’s classic, but with new and distressing instances of child abuse. Inevitably, the consequences for the child at the centre of this nexus of neglect, voyeurism, sexual transactions and sexualised Teletubbies are shocking and disturbing.

Handbag was first performed at the Lyric Hammersmith Studio, London, in 1998.

A Life in Three Acts

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

With honesty, humour and occasional anger, performer Bette Bourne tells the playwright Mark Ravenhill about his brave and flamboyant life. Crafted from transcripts of a series of long, private conversations, Bette reminisces and replays scenes from his life, from a post-war childhood, a stint as a classical actor in the late 1960s, to living in a drag commune in Notting Hill and being an active member of the Gay Liberation Front. Bette talks about touring with the New York-based Hot Peaches cabaret group and founding his own cabaret troop, the Bloolips, which redefined gay theatre by creating their very own unique celebration of dramatic and colourful homosexuality.

The piece, in three parts, reveals both a portrait of a pioneering, radical individual and a historical document of the struggles and achievements of gay liberation. A Life in Three Acts was first performed in 2009 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Mother Clap's Molly House

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Mother Clap’s Molly House, a black comedy with songs, is a riotous celebration of the diversity of human sexuality.

In London, 1726, Mrs Tull’s husband has just dropped dead from a surfeit of lustful thoughts. She’s left with a shop that sells fancy dress costumes, most popular with the prostitutes looking to stand out from the crowd. She can’t read the ledgers, she’s getting cheated by the whores, a man in a dress is looking for a job, and the apprentice boy keeps disappearing on sexual adventures to the heath. But it is the apprentice boy, and his taste for wearing the dresses in the shop, that gives her the idea for a new career. The play skips between the eighteenth century and 2001, where a group of wealthy gay men are preparing the drugs and video cameras for a sex party.

The play is both an affectionate examination of the vitality and liberation of the molly house’s counterculture, and a regretful comment on the commodification of sex and love.

Mother Clap’s Molly House premiered in 2001 at the National Theatre, London.

Over There

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Over There is an intense drama of synchronous disconnection, an allegory of competing ideologies set across the Berlin Wall.

When the mother of identical twins, Franz and Karl, defects to the West, she escapes only with Franz, leaving Karl behind. Twenty-five years later, Karl crosses the border from East Germany to West Germany to find his other half. The two men have shared experiences, know scraps of each other’s lives and talk at the same time, but the gulf of ideology and upbringing between them is impossible. When the Berlin Wall comes down, the physical barrier between them is removed, but although their worlds recombine it can never reconnect.

Ravenhill’s visceral, confrontational play examines the hungers released when two ideologies, separated by a common language, meet again.

Over There premiered in 2009 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

pool (no water)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Hypnotic and razor-sharp, pool (no water) tears up the ideals of friendship and art, exposing a deep vein of envy. The lines of the script are not assigned to particular characters or parts, but reveal a seething collective experience of guilt and jealousy.

A famous artist invites her old friends out to her luxurious home and new swimming pool. For one night only, the group is back together, pretending to be bohemian and carefree even though they’re all older now and the rest of them don’t have pools. But a horrific accident puts an end to the nostalgia, and puts their host into a coma.

None of them is sure who was first to take out a camera. And before too long her suffering is being claimed, exploited, delighted in, because it makes wonderful art.

The first performance of pool (no water) was in 2006 at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth.

Product

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Product is a satirical monologue, a movie script pitched to a silent actress about a woman who falls in love with a suicide bomber. The producer offers the story of a beautiful, wounded woman, a dark stranger, sublime passion, a nightmare, a suicide pact: it is the script that made him cry, that he had to produce. Ravenhill’s arch, perfectly observed satire of Hollywood’s worst clichés spikily undercuts the producer’s sycophantic pitch.

Product interrogates society’s desperate need for narrative and for closure, an intelligent and immediate discussion of the media’s response to terrorism.

The play was first presented in 2005 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Scenes from Family Life

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Scenes from Family Life is a charged and punchy play about relationships and the last two people left on earth.

Lisa and Jack are teenagers, but they are about to become adults; Lisa is pregnant, and neither of them can wait for the baby to arrive and their lives to start. But then Lisa vanishes – into thin air. Jack panics until she comes back, but then she disappears again, and then it turns out that everyone is dematerialising, all over the planet people are disappearing. Quickly, the only people left in the world are Jack and his heavily pregnant friend Stacy. Jack adjusts to the silent and primitive world; but for Stacey it begins to turn into a nightmare.

Scenes from Family Life was originally commissioned as part of the National Theatre Connections programmes, as part of a group of plays specifically written for teenagers. It was performed at the National in 2008.

Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat is an epic cycle of 16 short plays examining the personal and political effect of war on modern life. Each of the plays is named after an existing classical work as Ravenhill stages the intensity of individual pain against a glimpsed vast narrative of conflict. A child talks to a headless man, a woman is afflicted with mysterious intestinal pain, a couple talk about their garden bench, a soldier demands love from a woman whose country he has liberated. Each new play is a fragment of suffering, and a fierce sardonic attack on the war on terror. The scenes are lightly connected, but can be performed in any combination or order.

Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat was first produced as Ravenhill for Breakfast in 2007 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Also included is a seventeenth play entitled Paradise Regained, an epilogue to the cycle, first presented in 2008 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Shopping and Fucking

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Shopping and Fucking is a witty and shocking look at a corrosive disposable world and a numb, desperate generation. The play opened at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1996 and is central to the Nineties movement sometimes called ‘in-yer-face theatre’.

Ravenhill takes the names of his four main characters from pop stars and shows them buying, selling and stealing whatever they can – drugs, sex and ready meals. Mark used to work in the City but is now a recovering junkie; after a topless audition for a shopping channel Lulu is asked to sell ecstasy by her interviewer; Gary, who has been sexually abused by his step-father, is an underage prostitute looking for someone to fulfil his violent fantasies; Robbie tries to make enough to pay the threatening landlord by setting up a phone sex line with Lulu. With a raw mixture of black humour and bleak philosophy, the play shows the lives of disconnected youth reduced to transactions by a dysfunctional consumerist society.

Some Explicit Polaroids

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Some Explicit Polaroids is a searing and disturbing examination of the gulf between the leftist non-conformism of the eighties, and the pleasure-hungry culture of the late nineties.

Nick has been in prison since 1984: the ideals he went to prison for were radical, furious and subversive, but fifteen years later he doesn’t recognise the world he returns to. When he turns up at her door after being released from prison, Nick hardly recognises Helen. She was a fellow militant activist in the eighties, but has now bought a council flat and works in local government. Nick meets Nadia, rescuing her from being beaten up again by her sort-of boyfriend. He meets Tim, Nadia’s best friend, who has AIDS and has to take pills almost constantly. Tim has bought Victor from the internet, where Victor offered his fantastic body to the most exciting bidder. And the reason that Nick went to prison is lurking in the background. Nick finds he doesn’t know how the world works anymore, but he’s still angry with it.

Some Explicit Polaroids was first performed in 1999 at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.

Ten Plagues

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

London is infected. The dead fall in the streets. As the plague pits fill, the people of London struggle to maintain a society in the face of overwhelming mortality. Based on eye-witness accounts from 1665 and drawing poetic parallels with modern epidemics, Ten Plagues relates one man’s journey through a city in crisis.

Told entirely through a series of songs, Ten Plagues explores humanity’s struggle with sickness and death and celebrates our capacity for survival.

Ten Plagues was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 1 August 2011.

Totally Over You

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Totally Over You is a sparky comedy exploring celebrity obsession and romantic foolishness. Kitty, Rochelle, Hannah and Sinita break up with their boyfriends, persuaded by a horoscope and the fame-hungry Kitty that it would be better if they only dated celebrities. How else, Kitty argues, will they get themselves the talk shows, clothing brands and hordes of paparazzi that they dream of? The boys decide to trick the girls into thinking that they are on the brink of fame and fortune as a dreamy boy-band. The girls quickly decide to win the boys back, but when they find out the truth, will it be enough for Kitty?

Scenes from Family Life was originally commissioned as part of the National Theatre Connections programmes, as part of a group of plays specifically written for teenagers.

Picture of Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill is one of the most distinctive contemporary UK playwrights. He burst on to the theatre scene in 1996 with the huge hit Shopping and Fucking. He has continued to garner critical acclaim for plays that include Some Explicit Polaroids, Mother Clap's Molly House, and more recently Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat (National Theatre, Royal Court, Paines Plough, The Gate Theatre, April 2008).