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Philip Ridley (born 1964 in East London)[1] is an English storyteller working in a wide range of artistic media.

Philip Ridley
East London, England, United Kingdom
Alma materSt Martins School of Art
OccupationWriter, artist, film-maker

In the visual arts he has been cited as a contemporary to the 'Young British Artists',[2] and had his artwork exhibited internationally.[3]

As a novelist he has created fiction for both children and adults, and has had particular success and recognition as a children's author.[4]

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.[5] 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)[6] for which he has acquired a cult following.[7][8]

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.[9][10][11] 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.[12]

As a songwriter he has created songs for his cinematic and theatrical works, frequently collaborating with composer Nick Bicât.[13] He and Bicât have also formed a music group called Dreamskin Cradle with singer Mary Leay.[14] Ridley has also written songs for composer Anna Meredith, particularly operatic work.[15]

Ridley is also a poet, photographer, and performance artist and has written drama for radio.[16]

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."[17][18]



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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] Ridley also started his own theatre group as a student, acting in many of the productions, and made several short art films.[22]

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).[23] 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).[24][25] Ridley's third film as writer-director, Heartless, premiered at the Frightfest horror film festival in London in August 2009.[26] 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.[27] It was the first mainstream British film to be released across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray, download) at the same time.[28]

In 1996 Hungary's the Titanic Film Festival had a major retrospective of Ridley's work.

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).[29]

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.

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.[30] 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.[31]

He featured on BBC 2's flagship arts programme The Culture Show on 2 March 2012.[32]

List of works (incomplete)Edit




Radio playsEdit

  • 1989 – October Scars the Skin (script unpublished)
  • 1989 – The Aquarium of Coincidences (script unpublished)
  • 1991 – Shambolic Rainbow (script unpublished)




Selected works in anthologiesEdit

  • 1987 – Short Story Embracing Verdi in the collection Oranges and Lemons: Stories by Gay Men (edited by David Rees and Peter Robbins)[33]
  • 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)

Derivative worksEdit

  • 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.
  • In 2011 the Schema Arts Collective used Ridley's 2005 play Mercury Fur as the basis for a community arts project called Behind the Eyes, which took place at the Sassoon Gallery, London.[62] The project featured an amateur production of Mercury Fur, displayed artwork inspired by the play and Ridley himself collaborated by exhibiting a series of photographic portraits he had created of the production's cast. A behind the scenes documentary about the project called Mercury Fur Unveiled was also made and later broadcast on the Community Channel in 2013[63] and is free to watch online.
  • In 2007 performance pieces inspired by Ridley's semi-autobiographical Introduction to Philip Ridley Plays: 1 were presented by young directors under the title Gleaming Dark. This received a one-off performance at Trafalgar Studios in conjunction with the venue's revival of Ridley's play Vincent River.[59]
  • A quote from Ridley's children novel Dakota of the White Flats is used as the epigraph for chapter 6 of Cornelia Funke's young adult fantasy novel Inkspell.[64]
  • 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.
  • The Song Troy Flamingo from Madonna Hip Hop Massaker's 1995 album Teenie Trap is based on the title story of Ridley's 1999 book Flamingoes in Orbit.
  • Ridley's song Who Will Love Me Now? was covered by the techno/house band Sunscreem under the title Please Save Me. The song became a cult hit in clubs, entered the top 40 UK chart, top 30 US dance chart and featured in the film South West 9.
  • The song Omlagus Garfungiloops (from Coil's 1992 album Stolen & Contaminated Songs) features excerpts of dialogue from The Reflecting Skin.
  • The Scottish band River Head used a photography still from The Reflecting Skin on the cover of their 1992 single sided 7" EP Was Away / Haddit.[65]
  • 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.[33]
  • Ridley's charcoal drawing The Conversation was used as the cover to cult band Blowzabella's 1988 album Pingha Frenzy.

Notable awards wonEdit

Notable award nominationsEdit


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  38. ^ Ridley, Philip (1997). "Looking Back". In Mike Bradwell. The Bush Theatre Book. London, England: Methuen. p. 77. ISBN 0413713202.
  39. ^ Ridley, Philip (2005). Pie Corbett; Gaby Morgan, eds. The Works 4. London, England: Macmillan Children's Books. pp. 220–222. ISBN 978-0-33043-644-1.
  40. ^ "Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse". Ought to be Clowns blogspot. 22 May 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  41. ^ "'Chain play' celebrates National's literary heritage". The Guardian. London. 10 October 2001. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
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  43. ^ Gardner, Lyn (5 February 2000). "Tingles among the tower blocks". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
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External linksEdit