Bourne to be wild - Mark Ravenhill interview

This article is from 2009

Interview with Playwright Mark Ravenhill

The life of a flamboyant gay theatre icon is perfect fodder for Fringe innovator

Mark Ravenhill is making a habit of redefining what a Fringe play can be. Two years ago, his Ravenhill for Breakfast offered ever growing crowds a chance to see a daily changing programme of short plays written almost as fast as they could be performed, tuning into world events as they happened. The format is being copied in this year’s The World is Too Much by a succession of Traverse playwrights such as David Greig and Zinnie Harris. Ravenhill, meanwhile, is moving on to something new again.

A Life in Three Acts is as much interview as play, a three-part series of conversations between the playwright and the flamboyant gay theatre icon Bette Bourne. Ravenhill talked to the 70-year-old about his experience of coming out at a time when homosexuality was illegal, risking beatings during the early days of gay liberation, founding the extravagant Bloolips Theatre Troupe in 1977 and pursuing a successful stage career including his OBIE award-winning portrayal of Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien. He then edited the transcription – hesitations, repetitions and all – into three instalments which he and Bourne will perform as if speaking them for the first time.

‘The closest I can think of is My Dinner with André, a series of conversations in restaurants,’ says Ravenhill, who is planning to vary the format by introducing guest actors to play the parts of interviewer and interviewee. ‘On stage we’ll try to recreate the conversation as much as possible. It’s amazing as a personal story, but also as a historical journey of a whole group of people. Bette grew up during the war in a working-class family in Hackney, then in the repressive 1950s, followed by an almost evangelical discovery when he first went to a gay lib meeting and decided to change everything about his life.’

A Life in Three Acts, Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, 18–30 Aug (not 24), times vary, £14–£16 (£10–£11).

Life in Three Acts

  • 4 stars

With honesty, humour and occasional anger, Bette Bourne reminisces with friend and playwright Mark Ravenhill. Bette's life is told in three stand-alone acts on consecutive days. With special guests. Visit for details.