It is not yet ten years since Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking reached the stage of the Royal Court, during its West End exile in 1996; yet the play has already become, with Sarah Kane's Blasted, identified as central to the emergence of so-called ‘in-yer-face’ theatre. While Mark Ravenhill recognized the influence of such writers as Martin Crimp and David Mamet, it was only recently, during a discussion over coffee about a possible screenplay, that he began to consider the effects of both private and public events of 1993 upon his emergence as a writer – the death of a partner, and the infamous murder of a child by other children. In the following article he identifies recurrent concerns in his first three plays which he now sees as a working-out of his responses to a year which was crucial not only to his own personal narrative, but to others for whom the James Bulger murder epitomized all the worst aspects of a society that the Thatcherites claimed no longer to exist. Among Mark Ravenhill's more recent plays have been Mother Clap's Molly House, which transferred from the National Theatre to the Aldwych in 2002, and Totally Over You, written for the 2003 Shell Connections youth theatre season at the National. This article was first presented as the Marjorie Francis Lecture at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, on 5 May 2004.