His plays include Shopping and Fucking (first performed in 1996), Some Explicit Polaroids (1999) and Mother Clap's Molly House (2001). He made his acting debut in his monologue Product, at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He often writes for the arts section of The Guardian. He is Associate Director of London's Little Opera House at The King's Head Theatre.
Ravenhill is the elder of two sons born to Ted and Angela Ravenhill. He grew up in West Sussex, England and cultivated an interest in theatre early in life, putting on plays with his brother when they were eight and four, respectively. He studied English and Drama at Bristol University from 1984–1987, and held down jobs as a freelance director, workshop leader and drama teacher.
In 1997, Ravenhill became the literary director of a new writing company, Paines Plough. In 2003, when Nicholas Hytner took over as artistic director of the National Theatre, Ravenhill was brought in as part of his advisory team. In the mid-nineties, Ravenhill was diagnosed as HIV+, his partner of the early 1990s having died from AIDS.
Although he was at the heart of new British playwriting in the 1990s and 2000s, Ravenhill respects historical theatre. He has said that he would like to see directors focus more on the classics and stop producing new plays that don’t have as much substance or meaning. In the same article, Ravenhill posits that directors have forced themselves into the “eternal present”, rather than expanding their reach to the many different cultures and genres of the past that they have to choose from. Ravenhill has a love of traditional pantomime; he presented a Radio 4 documentary about the form and wrote Dick Whittington for the Barbican Theatre in 2006.
Ravenhill's work has transformed and developed in the 2000s. While his work in the 1990s - Shopping and Fucking, Handbag, and Some Explicit Polaroids for example - may be characterised as trying to represent contemporary British society, his later work has become more formally experimental and abstract. His one-man show Product, which toured internationally after its premiere at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is both a satire on the post-9/11 attitudes to terrorism, and a minutely observed reflection on the limits of language and form to capture contemporary reality. His play, The Cut, opened in 2006 at the Donmar Warehouse starring Sir Ian McKellen; it divided critics with its portrait of a world dominated by the administering of a surgical procedure: the country, the year and the procedure are all unspecified.
In 2008 the Royal Court, The Gate Theatre, the National Theatre, Out of Joint, and Paines Plough collectively presented the seventeen short plays Ravenhill wrote for the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe under the title Ravenhill for Breakfast, retitled as Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat. They express his ambiguous and politically indirect later style.
In 2009 Mark Ravenhill presented a staged reading of A Life In Three Acts, transcripts of conversations with Bette Bourne, an actor, drag queen and equal rights activist, at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. The following year, he presented readings of this work at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, NY and the Soho Theatre in London. Bourne worked with Ravenhill previously on a short play, Ripper, playing Queen Victoria at the Union Theatre in London in 2007.
He is also working on a TV series.
Ravenhill was appointed Associate Director of London's Little Opera House at The King's Head Theatre in September 2010. He played an active role in the venue's relaunch as London's third Opera House along with patron Sir Jonathan Miller, Robin Norton-Hale and Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
In 2012, Mark Ravenhill is to become the Royal Shakespeare Company's Writer in Residence. The same year, he was commissioned by the London Gay Men's Chorus for a piece to mark the choir's 21st anniversary. With composed by Conor Mitchell, the piece, entitled Shadow Time, explores the evolution of mentalities in respect of homosexuality in the lifetime of the Chorus. The piece will be premiered at the Royal Festival Hall, on 6 May 2012 during the Chorus' summer concert: A Band of Brothers.
ITV1's sit-com Vicious is written by Gary Janetti and Mark Ravenhill and shown from April, 2013.
- Fist (1995)
- Shopping and Fucking (1996)
- Faust Is Dead (1997)
- Sleeping Around (1998)
- Handbag (1998)
- Some Explicit Polaroids (1999)
- Mother Clap's Molly House (2000)
- Feed Me (Radio Play) (2000)
- Totally Over You (2003)
- Education (2004)
- Citizenship (2005)
- Product (2005)
- The Cut (2006)
- Pool (No Water) (2006)
- Ravenhill For Breakfast (2007)
- Scenes From Family Life (2007)
- Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat (2008)
- Over There (2009)
- The Experiment (2009)
- Ten Plagues (2011)
- Ravenhill, Mark. 2001. Plays:1. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-76060-X. p.1-91
- Thorpe, Vanessa (19 September 2010). "Opera in a London pub aims to end elitism and high prices". The Guardian (London).
- University of Bristol Alumni
- Ravenhill, Mark (March 26, 2008). "My near death period". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-08-30
- Mark Ravenhill, "Theatres must stop producing so many new plays and focus more on the classics", Guardian Unlimited, 17 October 2005 
- Ravenhill, Mark (2007-11-12). "My pink fountain pen has run dry". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- "Mark Ravenhill lands Royal Shakespeare Company role". BBC News. 30 November 2011.
- London Gay Men's Chorus turns 21, The Guardian, 3 May 2012
- Biography at the Barbican homepage.
- Mark Ravenhill at the website of the British Arts Council. Author's page, incl. "critical perspective." (Compiled and written by Dr. Peter Buse, 2003.)
- Mark Ravenhill at the website of In-Yer-Face Theatre.
- Ravenhill 10. A symposium celebrating the tenth anniversary of Shopping & Fucking, The Pinter Centre for Performance and Creative Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London.
- Audio interview from open2.net
- Literary Encyclopedia
- Contemporary Writers, British Council
- New York Entertainment
- The Guardian
- Barbican, Mark Ravenhill
- At the Playwright Database