Features Q&A and Interviews Published 23 April 2012

Philip Ridley Q&A

An edited transcript of the Exeunt-hosted Q&A with Philip Ridley and the cast, following a performance of his play Mercury Fur at The Old Red Lion earlier this month.
Exeunt Editors

HB: Gentleman in the white t-shirt at the back.

You spoke briefly about this Victorian morality in theatre within theatre, do you think that would ever disappear, what would it take to have that demolished?

PR: I don’t know to be honest. I mean I’m exaggerating to make a point. But it seems to me that it is there, and that we’re on the cusp of other things beginning to happen. I think the rise of online, has changed things considerably because it means an audience has their voice. Which is fantastic because people can spread around very quickly between one another, what they think is an interesting piece of work that they’d wish others to see. It’s a very difficult thing to talk about because stuff like this can change overnight, and you have to have kind of lived through a moment where things have changed overnight to see what that feels like, if you know what I mean. I remember when I was studying painting at St Martins School of Art, the conception there was that nobody in England knows any artists. It’s like nobody. They might know Constable, and Turner. But the concept that you could be alive and a painter, and people would be generally interested and go and see it. In the space of two years over the 1990s that changed. My mum knows who Tracey Emin is, and Damian Hirst is, and the Chapman Brothers. You go to Tate Modern its packed, absolutely packed. I went to see the David Hockney show at the Royal Academy and you’re in there like this *sucks in cheeks*, you cannot move. For a seventy-five year old man’s paintings of the English countryside. It’s more popular than a football match. It’s incredible, almost overnight in kind of artistic terms. So something can change, and I don’t know it is that will change. But I’ve got a feeling that something is out there, rumbling, of a new audience working to find for themselves the kind of plays that they want to go and see. And not just receiving it, taken for granted.

2010 production of Pitchfork Disney in a found space, Dallas, TX.

HB: That’s almost like the protest movement, in a way. A networked, proactive… that audiences can change the things that they’re seeing.

PR: Yeah, to me it’s more like Punk actually, in the seventies. People, artists, everyone.. “there’s another way we can actually do this”. Y’know, we don’t have to go to the big established buildings to see new dangerous writing. If it’s there at all. We can create our own venues where we can go and see this work that’s speaking directly to us. And that makes it much more urgent, and more relevant for younger people, for all of us who are passionate about theatre. And that’s what it is, it’s an engagement with your life, our lives, how we’re relating to one another, and beyond that how we’re relating to the world around us – how we relate politically to the world. Theatre takes something personal and by taking something very personal it makes it very political, and something universal and global. And I think there’s other ways that we can find that. This is probably going nowhere, but you know what I mean. I think there’s something out there that is beginning to happen. In a quick parentheses to that. One of the other reasons that I started to lose a lot of faith in going to big buildings, is just the length of time it can take. Anyone here that wants to write or is interested in writing, you can finish a stage play, you send it to a theatre: it can take them a year to read it, if they’re interested it can take them another eight months to get a contract, the two years in which to schedule it, and then it can be scheduled another two years beyond that. It just goes on and on, sorry we all want to write something, put it on and get an immediate reaction. So there are other ways of doing things, really.