Mark Ryan: Guitarist with Adam and the Ants who became a successful playwright

Lewis Davies
Tuesday 01 March 2011 01:00

Mark Ryan was a restless musician and dramatist who played in a number of experimental punk bands before joining Adam and the Ants in time for their debut performance at the ICA restaurant in May 1977. He was in the line-up to record Plastic Surgery and appeared with the band in the Derek Jarman film Jubilee in the same year. However, soon at odds with the management, he was fired and joined The Photons with Steve Strange.

Ryan was born in Tottenham, London, in 1959 to a London Irish Catholic family originally from Limerick. His mother trained as a nurse and midwife, while his father worked as a university lecturer. Ryan left school at 16 and worked in various factory jobs until his adventures with music gave him some scope for his talents.

After the brief flare of punk faded Ryan moved to obtain a more classical education, studying music at Dartington College of Arts. He developed his interest in music to performance in the theatre and began to write plays, librettos and musicals. It was at Dartington that he met Meryl Hopwood, who was studying drama. They later married. Ryan and his first wife, Jo Rothon, had separated amicably during his time at Dartington. They remained on good terms. After touring with Horse and Bamboo Theatre, Ryan moved to Cardiff, where he developed a successful career as a dramatist and occasional actor, designer and tutor.

He was the author of over 20 plays, employing a rare combination of music, visual set-pieces and words to arrive at his own distinct style. He worked through theatre in education with Spectacle, for young people with the Sherman and in a variety of forms with Made In Wales and Equinox. Ryan's subjects were diverse: a one-woman show on Dorothy Squires, an opera, Castradiva, and many successful theatre works for children such as Sonya the Dancing Bear, and The Lazy Ant, which won Best Script and Best Production at the International Children's Theatre Festival in Shanghai. Many of his plays were performed at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, where his popularity in the Welsh theatre world ensured a strong support.

His most successful work was The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as told to Carl Jung by an inmate of the Broadmoor Asylum, a play which received publicity as the longest title at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1998 but soon garnered five-star reviews and a sell-out run, with further performances in London, Cardiff and San Francisco. His last play was Sean Tyrone, which premiered in Cardiff in 2010. He was working on several more theatre productions at the time of his death, and had also finished his first novel.

In recent years Ryan had suffered from ill-health, and succumbed to complications caused by liver damage.

Mark Ryan, playwright and musician: born London 2 March 1959; married firstly Jo Rothon, secondly Meryl Hopwood (one son, one daughter); died Cardiff 31 January 2011.

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