Philip Ridley

Philip Ridley
Born (1964-12-29) 29 December 1964[1]
East London, England, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater St Martins School of Art
Occupation Writer, artist, film-maker

Philip Ridley (born 1964 in East London)[2] 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’,[3] and has exhibited his work internationally.[4]

As a novelist he has created fiction for both children and adults, and has had particular success and recognition as a children's author.[5]

In the world of cinema he is perhaps best known for his award winning screenplay for the 1990 film The Krays, a biopic about the Kray twins which was directed by Peter Medak.[6] As a film-maker in his own right he is recognised for creating a loose trilogy of horror films; The Reflecting Skin, The Passion of Darkly Noon and Heartless[7] for which he has acquired a cult following.[8][9]

As a playwright he has been cited as a pioneer of ‘In-yer-face theatre’, with his debut play The Pitchfork Disney considered to be a seminal work in the development of the style, and has also been dubbed “the key play” of the 1990s.[10][11][12] The majority of his adult plays have been viewed as controversial, being met with both condemnation and high acclaim. One critic has stated that “Depending on your point of view, he's either Britain's sickest playwright or a singular, prolific, and amazingly visionary genius.”[13] In contrast he is also known as the creator of an ongoing series of plays for young people (The Storyteller Sequence) and has written theatrical works for children and family audiences.[14]

As a songwriter he has created songs for his cinematic and theatrical works, frequently collaborating with composer Nick Bicât.[15] He and Bicât have also formed a music group called Dreamskin Cradle with singer Mary Leay.[16] Ridley has also written songs for composer Anna Meredith, particularly operatic work.[17]

Ridley is also a poet, photographer, and performance artist and has written drama for radio.[18]

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."[19][20]


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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] Ridley also started his own theatre group as a student, acting in many of the productions, and made several short art films, including Visiting Mr Beak which starred the veteran actor Guy Rolfe. His short film for Channel 4, The Universe of Dermot Finn, was officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, where it was a critical success and went on to receive theatrical distribution.[24]

Ridley has written three books for adults, Crocodilia, In the Eyes of Mr. Fury, and Flamingoes in Orbit; the screenplay for The Krays[25] feature film; 13 adult stage plays: The Pitchfork Disney, the multi-award-winning The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Ghost from a Perfect Place, Vincent River, the controversial Mercury Fur, Leaves of Glass, Piranha Heights, Tender Napalm, Shivered, Dark Vanilla Jungle, Radiant Vermin, Tonight with Donny Stixx and Karagula; plus a further five plays for young people (known collectively as The Storyteller Sequence): Karamazoo, Fairytaleheart, Moonfleece, Sparkleshark and Brokenville as well as a play for the whole family Feathers in the Snow.[26] He has also directed three feature films from his own screenplays: Heartless, The Reflecting Skin – winner of 11 international awards – and The Passion of Darkly Noon[27] (winner of the Best Director Prize at the Porto Film Festival) and two short films, Visiting Mr Beak and The Universe of Dermot Finn.[28]

His children's books include Scribbleboy (shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal), Kasper in the Glitter (nominated for the Whitbread Prize), Mighty Fizz Chilla (shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award) and Krindlekrax (winner of both the Smarties Prize and the WH Smith Mind-Boggling Book Award). The stage play of Krindlekrax – adapted by Ridley himself – premiered at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in the summer of 2002.

He is also a photographer – he created the cover images for Ridley: Plays 1 and Ridley: Plays 2, (published by Methuen) and regularly exhibits portraits of friends and images of East London, the two main themes of his photographic output – and a poet (his work has appeared in several collections). He co-wrote, with Nick Bicât, two songs that appeared in his film The Passion of Darkly Noon, ("Who Will Love Me Now?", sung by PJ Harvey – later covered by Sunscream – and "Look What You've Done" sung by Gavin Friday). In 2010 Ridley and Bicât formed the music group 'Dreamskin Cradle' and released their first album Songs from Grimm on all major download sites.[29] 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.[30]

Ridley's third film as writer-director, Heartless, premiered at the Frightfest horror film festival in London in August 2009.[31] 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.[32] It was the first mainstream British film to be released across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray, download) at the same time.[33] In addition, a new collection of his adult plays was published by Methuen (including Vincent River, Mercury Fur, Leaves of Glass and Piranha Heights, with a new introduction by Ridley). An opera for teenagers titled Tarantula in Petrol Blue by Aldeburgh Music also premiered in 2009.

He was featured on BBC 2's flagship arts programme The Culture Show on 2 March 2012.[34]

List of works (incomplete)


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)
  • 1998 – Wonderful Insect (short story)
  • 2000 – Vinegar Street (novel)
  • 2002 – Mighty Fizz Chilla (novel)
  • 2005 – Zip's Apollo (novel)

Works for Younger Children

  • 1995 – The Hooligan's Shampoo (short story)
  • 1996 – Dreamboat Zing (short story)

Works for Adults


Ongoing performance sequence - Lovesongs for Extinct Creatures:[35]

  • Your Love
  • Dark Sky Craving
  • The Silver Hat
  • I’m Waiting to be Killed
  • The Seams

Performance sequence - Heartbeat on the Horizon:[36]

  • Press Conference
  • After
  • Flash Boom
  • Shrapnel
  • I Will

Miscellaneous poetry:

  • The Dying Lizard Man[37]
  • Someone Wants to Kill Me Again[38]
  • Getting Through The Day[39]
  • The Prince and the Snail[40]
  • Sparkling Cannibals[41]


Adult Stage Plays

Plays for Young People (The Storyteller Sequence)

Plays for the Whole Family

  • 2012 – Feathers in the Snow

Plays for Children


  • 2007 – On Such A Day (operatic concert piece)
  • 2009 – Tarantula in Petrol Blue (opera for teenagers)

Radio plays


Feature Films

Short Films

  • 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)
  • 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 Pieces

1981 – 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)

Performance Art

Monologues (sometimes performed as theatrical pieces)

Performed at Vault Zero:


Group Shows

  • 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.[43][44]

Solo Shows

  • 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 (photography exhibition)
  • 2007 – East End (photography exhibition)
  • 2008 – Recent Portraits 2 (photography exhibition)

Selected works in anthologies

In media

Notable awards won

Notable award nominations


  1. Profile of Philip Ridley as a children's author by Channel 4 Learning
  2. Profile of Philip Ridley as a playwright on
  3. Rebellato, Dan (19 April 2011). "The dark, disturbing genius of Philip Ridley". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  4. A summary of Philip Ridley's work by Bloomsbury Publishing
  5. Hunt, George (March 1994). "Authorgraph No.85: Philip Ridley". Books for Keeps. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  6. Webpage by Bloomsbury Publishing on The Krays screenplay
  7. Hatfull, Jonathan (27 November 2015). "The Reflecting Skin is "Not Little House on the Prairie!"". SciFiNow. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  8. Dance, Michael (2 April 2010). "'Heartless' Trailer: Coming of Age in London, with Demons". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  9. "Philip Ridley on his Demons". 28 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  10. "Philip Ridley On ... Revisiting The Pitchfork Disney". London. 30 January 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  11. Bethold, David (19 August 2012). "On Philip Ridley and Tender Napalm". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  12. Ridley, Philip (21 October 2015). "Introduction by Aleks Sierz". The Pitchfork Disney. London, Great Britain: Methuen Drama. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-4725-1400-4.
  13. Quote from Aleks Sierz in the abstract to his article 'Putting a New Lens on the World’: the Art of Theatrical Alchemy' from the Journal 'New Theatre Quarterly'
  14. Webpage on Ridley's 'The Storyteller Sequence' by Bloomsbury Publishing
  15. Schultz, Ian (24 December 2015). "The Reflecting Skin - Philip Ridley interview". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  16. "Dreamskin Cradle Launched". NickBicâ Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  17. "Video/Worklist". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  18. Rebellato, Dan (17 October 2011). The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights. Great Britain: Methuen Drama. p. 425. ISBN 9781408122785.
  19. Janisse, Kier-La (14 July 2010). "Reflecting Skin director Philip Ridley returns with horror stunner HEARTLESS". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  20. Parton, Russell (6 March 2015). "Philip Ridley: 'You cannot predict what's going to cause outrage'". East End Review. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  21. Interview with The Stage, 16 March 2015.
  22. Philip Ridley – Sparkleshark
  23. Philip Ridley – the best British playwright of the past 20 years
  24. Philip Ridley – Penguin Books Authors – Penguin Books
  25. The Krays film Retrieved 19 September 2007
  26. – Filmreviews: Schrei in der Stille (OT: The Reflecting Skin)
  27. Sitges '09: My Sitges Story – Part 5
  28. Puffin Books: Philip Ridley
  30. Extremely detailed list of Ridley's credits (in French), compiled by Sébastien Cagnoli
  31. Go Behind-the-Scenes of Heartless
  32. A Heartless Trailer Debut
  33. Lionsgate plots digital release strategy for Heartless | News | Screen
  34. BBC
  35. Ridley, Philip (2011). Tender Napalm. London, England: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. pp. 65–71. ISBN 978-1-4081-5287-4.
  36. Ridley, Philip (2012). Mercury Fur. London, England: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. pp. 133–71. ISBN 9780413775146.
  37. Ridley, Philip (2012). "Introduction chapter LV". Philip Ridley Plays 1: The Pitchfork Disney; The Fastest Clock in the Universe; Ghost from a Perfect Place. London, England: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. pp. lx–lxi. ISBN 9781408142318.
  38. Ridley, Philip (1997). "Looking Back". In Mike Bradwell. The Bush Theatre Book. London, England: Methuen. p. 75. ISBN 0413713202.
  39. Ridley, Philip (1997). "Looking Back". In Mike Bradwell. The Bush Theatre Book. London, England: Methuen. p. 77. ISBN 0413713202.
  40. Ridley, Philip (2005). Pie Corbett; Gaby Morgan, eds. The Works 4. London, England: Macmillan Children's Books. pp. 220–222. ISBN 9780330436441.
  41. "Review: Refugees Welcome, Southwark Playhouse". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  42. Maslin, Janet (9 November 1990). "The Krays (1990) Review/Film; Twin Thugs With a Mother Complex". The New York Times.

External links

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