- (1966 - ) British playwright and journalist, whose work played a defining role in the in-yer-face theater of the 1990s. Ravenhill was brought up in suburban Sussex and developed an early obsession with the theater, putting on plays with his brother from the age of six. After studies at Bristol University, he worked for some years as a freelance director and drama teacher; his decision to begin writing was, he says, galvanized by finding out that he was HIV positive. In 1995 Ravenhill's first play, the 10-minute Fist, was staged at London's Finborough Theatre and caught the attention of the director Max Stafford-Clark,who commissioned a full-length work. The result, the provocatively entitledShopping and Fucking, was staged by the Out of Joint company at the Royal Court in 1996. An episodic piece in which a group of young drifters indulge rather joylessly in both activities, the play features scenes of drug-taking and explicit gay sex (including one in which an under-agerent-boy is penetrated by a knife). As such it provoked a predictable furore, including a denunciation by the Home Secretary, and went on to enjoy a six-month run in the West End. This succès de scandale was followed by the similarly scabrous Faust is Dead (1997), Handbag (1998), and Some Explicit Polaroids (1999), in which Ravenhill continued to dissect the amoral retail-obsessed culture of the 1990s.
In 2000 Ravenhill produced his most ambitious work to date with MotherClap's Molly House, a rollicking costume drama set in the gay subculture of18th-century London. The play, which requires a cast of over 20, was staged by Out of Joint at the National's Lyttleton Theatre to mainly excellent reviews. Subsequent plays included Citizenship (2005), a piece about teenage sexuality developed for performance in schools, Product (2006), a one-man show in which Ravenhill himself took to the stage, and The Cut(2006), an elliptical political fable set in a totalitarian future. Ravenhill then showed a perhaps unexpected love of traditional forms by writing the Christmas pantomime Dick Whittington and his Cat (2006) for performance at the Barbican. More recent work has included a set of 16 short plays for the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe, subsequently staged at London theaters under the collective title Shoot/Get/ Treasure/Repeat, and Over There (2009), about identical twins brought up on either side of the Berlin Wall.