Philip Ridley (born 1964 in East London) is an English storyteller working in a wide range of artistic media.
In the visual arts he has been cited as a contemporary to the 'Young British Artists', and had his artwork exhibited internationally.
As a novelist he has created fiction for both children and adults, and has had particular success and recognition as a children's author.
In the field of cinema he is perhaps best known for his award-winning screenplay for the 1990 film The Krays (1990), a biopic about the Kray twins which was directed by Peter Medak. As a film-maker in his own right he is recognised for creating a loose trilogy of horror films; The Reflecting Skin (1990), The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995) and Heartless (2009) for which he has acquired a cult following.
As a playwright he has been cited as a pioneer of 'In-yer-face theatre', with his debut play The Pitchfork Disney (1991) considered by many to be a seminal work in the development of the style, with one critic even dubbing it "the key play" of the 1990s. A great number of his plays for adults have been perceived as controversial, being met with both condemnation and high acclaim upon their initial reception. As a writer for the stage he is also recognised for creating an ongoing series of plays for young people (The Storyteller Sequence) and has written theatrical works for children and family audiences.
As a songwriter he has created songs for his cinematic and theatrical works, frequently collaborating with composer Nick Bicât. He and Bicât have also formed a music group called Dreamskin Cradle with singer Mary Leay. Ridley has also written songs for composer Anna Meredith, particularly operatic work.
Ridley is also a poet, photographer, and performance artist and has written drama for radio.
Although Ridley creates stories through a wide range of media he dislikes his work being categorised by the medium in which it is told, often referring to them belonging to each other as "different peaks of the same mountain."
Ridley was born in Bethnal Green, in the East End of London, where he lived and worked for the majority of his life until moving to Ilford. Ridley studied painting at Saint Martin's School of Art and his work has been exhibited throughout Europe and Japan. He started as both a performance artist and the creator of a long sequence of charcoal drawings called The Epic of Oracle Foster. One drawing from this sequence, "Corvus Cum", portraying a man ejaculating a black bird, was exhibited at the ICA in London while Ridley was still a student and – with calls for it to be displayed behind a curtain – became a cause célèbre. Ridley also started his own theatre group as a student, acting in many of the productions, and made several short art films.
Work in Literature
Ridley has written three books for adults; Crocodilia (1988), In the Eyes of Mr. Fury (1989), and Flamingoes in Orbit (1990).
His children's novels include Mercedes Ice (1989), Dakota of the White Flats (1989), Krindlekrax (1991) winner of both the Smarties Prize and the WH Smith Mind-Boggling Book Award, Meteorite Spoon (1994), Kasper in the Glitter (1994) nominated for the Whitbread Prize, Scribbleboy (1997) shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Zinderzunder (1998), Vinegar Street (2000), Mighty Fizz Chilla (2002) shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and Zip's Apollo (2005). He also has written two short stories for younger children, Dreamboat Zing (1996) and The Hooligan's Shampoo (1996).
Work in Cinema
After graduating from St Martins Ridley created the short film Visiting Mr Beak (1987), which starred the veteran actor Guy Rolfe. He later created a short film for Channel 4 called The Universe of Dermot Finn (1988), which featured renowned actress Sheila Hancock, and was officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, where it was a critical success and went on to receive theatrical distribution.
While still a student at St Martins Ridley wrote a screenplay for The Krays (1990), which was directed by Peter Medak, and starred real life brothers Gary Kemp and Martin Kemp, who previously were recognised for their band Spandau Ballet.
Ridley has also directed three feature films from his own screenplays: The Reflecting Skin (1990) winner of 11 international award, The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995) winner of the Best Director Prize at the Porto Film Festival, and Heartless (2009). Ridley's third film as writer-director, Heartless, premiered at the Frightfest horror film festival in London in August 2009. The film stars Jim Sturgess, Clémence Poésy, Noel Clarke, Eddie Marsan, Luke Treadaway, Ruth Sheen and Timothy Spall, and was released in the UK in May 2010. It was the first mainstream British film to be released across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray, download) at the same time.
Work in Theatre
Ridley has written 13 adult stage plays: the seminal The Pitchfork Disney (1990), the multi-award-winning The Fastest Clock in the Universe (1992), Ghost from a Perfect Place (1994), Vincent River (2000), the controversial Mercury Fur (2005), Leaves of Glass (2007), Piranha Heights (2008), Tender Napalm (2011), Shivered (2012), Dark Vanilla Jungle (2013), Radiant Vermin (2015), Tonight with Donny Stixx (2015) and Karagula (2016).
Ridley is also known for his series of plays for young people (known collectively as The Storyteller Sequence), consisting of Karamazoo (2004), Fairytaleheart (1998), Moonfleece (2004), Sparkleshark and Brokenville (2003).
He has also written two plays for young children Daffodil Scissors (2004) and Krindlekrax (2002) - a stage adaptation of his successful children's novel of the same name - as well as a play for the whole family Feathers in the Snow (2012).
Work in Music
Ridley's output as a lyricist has produced a wide range of songs, a number of which have featured in a variety of his plays, films, and novels. While still a student Ridley participated in music by creating work with a band called Haunted Staircase (who released their double-sided record Flutters in the early 1980s), and also worked as a DJ at a nightclub.
As a songwriter he has regularly collaborated with the composer Nick Bicât. For Ridley's film The Passion of Darkly Noon they created two songs: "Look What You've Done" (sung by Gavin Friday), and "Who Will Love Me Now?" (sung by PJ Harvey), the later of which was voted as BBC Radio 1's Best Film Song of 1998; and was later covered by the techno/house band Sunscreem as Please Save Me, whose cover entered the UK top 40 chart, became a cult hit in clubs, and featured in the film South West 9. For his film Heartless Ridley and Bicât created ten songs (performed by Mary Leay, Joe Echo, and lead actor Jim Sturgess).
In 2010 Ridley and Bicât formed the music group 'Dreamskin Cradle' (with singer Mary Leay). The group's first album Songs from Grimm (2014) consisted of twelve songs inspired by female characters in Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and was released on all major download sites. Some songs from the album were performed as part of a live performance called Grimm Tales which was developed by the St Paul's Institute, and featured readings from the actress Jeany Spark, reflections from Canon Edmund Newell, and extracts from Brothers Grimm fairy tales adapted by poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy. Dreamskin Cradle have also released two singles: Fade and Float (written for Ridley's stage play Tender Napalm), and Ladybird First (written for Ridley's stage play Dark Vanilla Jungle).
Ridley also has written the libretto of an opera for teenagers titled Tarantula in Petrol Blue, composed by Anna Meredith, which had its premiere in 2009.
Other Artistic Work
Riley is also a photographer, with his images appearing on the covers of a number of his published playtexts. He also has had a number of photography exhibitions, mainly consisting of portraits of his friends and images of East London.
Ridley is also a poet, with some of his poetry published in a number of anthologies, and has earned a following for his ongoing series of performance poetry Lovesongs for Extinct Creatures.
Ridley has won both the Evening Standard's Most Promising Newcomer to British Film and Most Promising Playwright Awards. He is the only person ever to receive both prizes.
He featured on BBC 2's flagship arts programme The Culture Show on 2 March 2012.
List of works (incomplete)
Works for Adults
- 1986 – Embracing Verdi (short story)
- 1987 – Leviathan (short story)
- 1988 – Crocodilia (novella)
- 1989 – In the Eyes of Mr. Fury (novel, expanded and rewritten version published in 2016)
- 1990 – Flamingoes in Orbit (short story collection)
- 1996 – Alien Heart (short story)
- 1997 – Introduction to Philip Ridley Plays: 1 (semi-autobiographical prose, extended and updated version published in 2012)
- 1998 – Wonderful Insect (short story)
- 2009 – Introduction to Philip Ridley Plays: 2 (semi-autobiographical prose)
Works for Children
- 1989 – Mercedes Ice (novel)
- 1989 – Dakota of the White Flats (novel)
- 1991 – Krindlekrax (novel)
- 1994 – Meteorite Spoon (novel)
- 1995 – Kasper in the Glitter (novel)
- 1997 – Scribbleboy (novel)
- 1998 – Zinderzunder (novel)
- 2000 – Vinegar Street (novel)
- 2002 – Mighty Fizz Chilla (novel)
- 2005 – Zip's Apollo (novel)
Works for Younger Children
- 1996 – The Hooligan's Shampoo (short story)
- 1996 – Dreamboat Zing (short story)
Ongoing performance sequence - Lovesongs for Extinct Creatures:
- Your Love
- Dark Sky Craving
- The Silver Hat
- I'm Waiting to be Killed
- The Seams
Performance sequence - Heartbeat on the Horizon:
- Press Conference
- Flash Boom
- I Will
- The Dying Lizard Man
- Someone Wants to Kill Me Again
- Getting Through The Day
- The Prince and the Snail
- Sparkling Cannibals
Adult Stage Plays
Plays for Young People (The Storyteller Sequence)
- 1997 – Sparkleshark (professional premiere in 1999)
- 1998 – Fairytaleheart (also worked as the director of the original stage production)
- 2000 – Brokenville (performed earlier as a work-in-progress under the title Apocalyptica in 1998)
- 2004 – Moonfleece (professional premiere in 2010)
- 2004 – Karamazoo (monologue)
Play for the Whole Family
- 2012 – Feathers in the Snow
Plays for Children
- 2000 – Scribbleboy (adapted by Ridley from his children's novel of the same name. Play unproduced and script unpublished)
- 2002 – Krindlekrax (adapted by Ridley from his children's novel of the same name)
- 2004 – Daffodil Scissors
Monologues (sometimes performed as Live Art)
- 1986 – Vesper (first performed as a live art piece by Ridley in the Ten Painters Exhibition at St Martins School of Art)
- ???? – Bloodshot
- ???? – Angry
- ???? – Vooosh!
- ???? – Now
- ???? – Okay
- ???? – Wound
- ???? – It
- ???? – Killer
- 2017 – Sledgehammers
- 2018 – Dancing
Monologues presented as theatre pieces
- 2017 – Killer (a theatrical presentation of three monologues: Killer, Sledgehammers, and Vesper)
- 2018 – Angry (a theatrical presentation of six monologues: Angry, Okay, Bloodshot, Dancing, Now, and Air)
- 2007 – On Such A Day (short operatic piece)
- 2009 – Tarantula in Petrol Blue (opera for teenagers)
- 1989 – October Scars the Skin (script unpublished)
- 1989 – The Aquarium of Coincidences (script unpublished)
- 1991 – Shambolic Rainbow (script unpublished)
- 1987 – Visiting Mr Beak (director and screenwriter)
- 1988 – The Universe of Dermot Finn (director and screenwriter)
As part of Dreamskin Cradle (with Nick Bicât)
2011 – From the stage play Tender Napalm
- Fade and Float (sung by Mary Leay)
2013 – From the stage play Dark Vanilla Jungle
- Ladybird First (sung by Mary Leay)
2014 – From the Album Songs from Grimm
- The Path You Know (sung by Mary Leay)
- Fearless (sung by Mary Leay)
- Waiting For You (sung by Mary Leay)
- Don't Call Me Magic (sung by Mary Leay)
- Not Here (sung by Mary Leay)
- Did That Just Happen (sung by Mary Leay)
- Things Will Change (sung by Mary Leay)
- Somewhere Something's Spinning (sung by Mary Leay)
- I Found You (Sung by Mary Leay)
- A Million Magic Things (sung by Mary Leay)
- Bring You Back (sung by Mary Leay)
- Tenderly Tender Me (sung by Mary Leay)
Songs in Cinematic Works
1995 – From the film The Passion of Darkly Noon (music Nick Bicât)
2010 – From the film Heartless (music Nick Bicât)
- Heartless (sung by Jim Sturgess)
- This Is The World We Live In (sung by Joe Echo)
- What Skin Is All About (sung by Joe Echo)
- The Other Me (sung by Joe Echo)
- Lie to Me (sung by Joe Echo)
- It Must Be Somewhere (sung by Mary Leay)
- The Darker It Gets (sung by Joe Echo)
- In You Are All The Stories (sung by Joe Echo)
- Beautiful (sung by Joe Echoe)
- Phoenix in Dynamite Sky (sung by Joe Echo)
Other musical works
198? – From the record single Flutters (double sided record featuring Philip Ridley as part of the band Haunted Staircase)
- Side A: Flutters (A New Kind of Lovesong)
- Side B: Something for the Children (A New Kind of Lullaby)
2009 – Fin Like a Flower (music by Anna Meredith, sung by Michael Chance. On the album The NMC Songbook)
2009 – Songless (music by Anna Meredith. Premiered at the Twickenham Choral Society. Unreleased)
2010 – Heal You (music by Anna Meredith, sung by Juice Vocal Ensemble. Performed as part of Laid Bare: 10 love songs. Released as a single in 2014)
2016 – Love and Defection (Mix-tape made for The Voice of Cassandre, a French Radio show which invites international artists to create their own mix-tapes.)
- 1981 – New Contemporaries, ICA, London.
- 1982 – New Contemporaries, ICA, London.
- 1983 – Christie's Student Show, Christie's, London.
- 1984 – The Leicester Exhibition, Leicester.
- 1985 – Open Drawing Exhibition, Tettenhall Gallery, Wolverhampton.
- 1985 – Open Exhibition, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1986 – Ten Painters, 7th Floor Gallery, St. Martin's School of Art, London.
- 1986 – Summer Exhibition, Bernard Baron Gallery, London.
- 1987 – Group Show, Tom Allen Centre, London.
- 1987 – Selected Show, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1987 – Young Contemporaries, Birch & Conran, London.
- 1988 – Decency, Discretly Bizarre Gallery, London.
- 1988 – Selected Show, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1988 – Mendacity, Discretly Bizarre Gallery, London.
- 1988 – Magical Cats, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1988 – Art Jonction International, Nice, France.
- 1988 – Bergamo Art Fair, Bergamo, Italy.
- 1996 – Freezeframe, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1985 – The Roaring Dreams Show, Tom Allen Centre, London.
- 1985 – The Feeling Landscapes Show, Bernard Baron Gallery, London.
- 1985 – The Glittering Gargolyes Show, The Fallen Angel, London.
- 1986 – Mermaids, Monsters and Sleeping Moons, Mermaid Theatre, London.
- 1986 – Recent Images, The Fallen Angel, London.
- 1986 – The Epic of Oracle Foster, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 1987 – Shy Moon, The Garden Gallery, London.
- 1989 – The Vinegar Blossoms, Lamont Gallery, London.
- 2007 – Recent Portraits, The Soho Theatre, London (photography exhibition)
- 2007 – East End (photography exhibition)
- 2008 – Recent Portraits 2, The Soho Theatre, London (photography exhibition)
- 2017 – Rebels and Rubble, Shoreditch Town Hall, London (mini photography exhibition)
Selected works in anthologies
- 1987 – Short Story Embracing Verdi in the collection Oranges and Lemons: Stories by Gay Men (edited by David Rees and Peter Robbins)
- 1988 – Short Story Leviathan in the collection 20 Under 35: Original Stories by Britain's Best New Young Writers (edited by Peter Straus)
- 1995 – Short Story Alien Heart in Projections 4½ (edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue)
- 1996 – Extract from The Fastest Clock in the Universe in the collection Live 3: Critical Mass (edited by David Tushingham)
- 1997 – Short Story Embracing Verdi in the collection The Mammoth Book of Gay Short Stories (edited by Peter Burton)
- 1997 – Three poems: Someone Wants to Kill Me, The Seams and Getting Through the Day in The Bush Theatre Book (edited by Mike Bradwell)
- 2000 – Extract from Krindlekrax in the collection Out of this world
- 2003 – Poem The Silver Hat in the collection Love (edited by Fiona Waters)
- 2005 – Poem The Prince and the Snail in the collection The Works 4 (edited by Gaby Morgan)
- 2007 – Three poems in the collection Poems for the Retired Nihilist: Volume 2 (edited by Graham Bendel)
- 2009 – Monologue Vesper in Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s: Voices, Documents, New Interpretations (edited by Aleks Sierz)
- In the British radio and TV comedy Little Britain the character of Vicky Pollard comes from Darkley Noone council estates which is named after Ridley's film The Passion of Darkly Noon.
- The German band Troy Flamingo are named after a character from one of Ridley's short stories.
- The American band the Reflecting Skin is named after Ridley's film of the same name.
- Reece Nagra's remix of Buju Banton's song Murderer opens with an expert of dialogue from The Krays and became a drum and bass anthem.
- Phil Western's 1998 album The Escapist features excerpts of dialogue from The Reflecting Skin.
- The song "Fury Eyes" (from the Creatures' second album, Boomerang) is dedicated to Ridley's novel In the Eyes of Mr. Fury.
- Ridley was one of 25 contemporary British writers asked to contribute a scene to NT25 Chain Play, celebrating 25 years of the Royal National Theatre in London.
- Ridley's song Who Will Love Me Now? (as sung by P.J. Harvey) was selected as Favourite Film Song by Radio 1 in 1998. It was covered by the techno/house band Sunscreem; the cover entered the top 40 UK chart and was used in the film South West 9.
- In 1996 Hungary's the Titanic Film Festival had a major retrospective of Ridley's work.
- The song Omlagus Garfungiloops (from Coil's 1992 album Stolen & Contaminated Songs) features excerpts of dialogue from The Reflecting Skin.
- Ridley's image 'Rainbow Kiss' was used on the cover of the short story collection Oranges and Lemons: Stories by Gay Men, to which he also contributed as a writer.
- Ridley's charcoal drawing The Conversation was used as the cover to cult band Blowzabella's 1988 album "Pingha Frenzy".
Notable awards won
Notable award nominations
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