Mark Ravenhill: 'I think the audience would ask for their money back if there wasn’t some fucking'

Never mind the


The explosive play that has put London's knickers in a twist is coming to the Festival. But can Scotland take a dose of SHOPPING AND FUCKING? Words: Donald Hutera

‘I DIDN‘T WRITE the asterisks.‘ claims Mark Ravenhill. ‘but there are still some laws that say you can't print that word in public places.‘

The 31-year-old North Londoner is referring to the title of his first full-length play. the sensational Out Of Joint/Royal Court co- prodttction Shopping And Fucking. or Shopping Ant! F*"‘3"’5‘ing as it is known on the posters. When this seriously funny drama opened in London last autumn, rave reviews were balanced by the kind of tabloid brouhaha lobbed more recently at the film C rash.

It wasn‘t just the title that got some

knickers in a twist. ‘but the content. Sodomy aside. the play contains scenes of oral sex. rimming. and a climactic sexual mercy-killing by kitchen utensil.

The box office was so strong that the show has had two West End revivals. lt hits this year’s Fringe directly from the second.

Ravenhill is speaking on his mobile telephone as he walks the short distance between the Camden Town coffee shop he

visits daily and his flat. ‘Just like an episode of

l-‘rientlsf he jokes Ravenhill happens to be a lead writer for This Life.


He certainly sounds friendly, perhaps no more so than when. mid-interview. he says he just has to play a track or two from his new Ethel Merman CD down the phone. It seems a tad incongruous, this amiable writer being responsible for one of the more seabrous. stunning debut plays in British theatre.

The flinty saga of four bed-sitting, junk- culture no-hopers. Shopping And Fucking has been dubbed the English Trainspotting. lts trashy. vulnerable young characters clutch stillborn dreams of comfort and belonging while clinging to the hard underbelly of the market place. Desperate. in the words of the play. ‘for a great big fuck off load of happiness’. they have scarcely a clue how to achieve it.

With this one work Ravenhill has helped define an era in the way that. say, Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money did ten years ago. (Out Of Joint is presenting the world premiere of her double bill Blue Heart during the Festival.) ‘S'hopping And Fucking is very

Sodomy aside, the play contains scenes of oral sex, rimming, and a climactic sexual mercy-killing by kitchen utensil.

much about now and today.’ says Ravenhill, ‘and a kind of emptiness or sense of a lost generation a zeitgeist kind of thing.’

He easily defends the play's title. ‘lt does a deal with the audience.‘ he says. ‘There are hardly any complaints or walk-outs. I think they‘d ask for their money back if there wasn 't some fttcking.‘

A self-taught playwright. Ravenhill says Shopping And [Vite/ting was born out of his desire to read the. kind of modern play he wasn't necessarily reading as literary manager for. firstly. the Soho Poly and. currently. Paines Plough theatre companies.

"l‘hree quarters of it primarily promotes laughter.‘ he says. ‘but the overall perspective is quite sad. And you haven't necessarily got an easy relationship with what‘s happening on stage.’

Ravenhill‘s major infltteees are David Mamet. and Bruno Bettelheim‘s Uses Of Enehantnmtt. As in Mamet. the rhythms of Ravenhill‘s dialogue arise out of the characters‘ drives and obsessions. Bettelheim is a key source for Ravenhill’s notion of the purpose of theatre.

"The aim is to write contemporary fairy stories.‘ he says. ‘As adults we still need those. Theatre allows us to come up with stories big enough for an audience to project its needs and fears onto. and to deal with them at some kind of a subconscious level.‘

As for Ravenhill's interest in the ‘F’ word. it doesn't end with the title of his play. He is to discuss its use throughout TV history in The Story Of Park. an event at this year’s [Edinburgh International Television Festival. (‘ouncillor Moira Knox can rest easy. though. The discussion is closed to the public.

Shopping And Fucking (Fringe) Out Of Joint. Royal Court Theatre, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3), Edinburgh, 0131 226 2428, 9-30 Aug (not 12, 26) 7.30pm, £10/£11 (ES/£10). See Freeloaders. page 31.

8—-14Aug 1997 THE usr 23