Dealer's Choice

Written by Patrick Marber

Wednesday 17th September to Saturday 20th September 2014

Directed by Pete Woodward

AuthorPatrick Marber

Patrick Albert Crispin Marber (b 1964)

Patrick Marber was born in London on 19th September 1964. (So he will be 50 during our Bench run!) He is the son of Brian Marber, a leading and highly regarded technical analyst, and was raised in Wimbledon. He was educated at Rokeby Preparatory School, St Paul's School, Cranleigh School and Wadham College, Oxford.

After working for a few years as a stand-up comedian, Marber was a writer and cast member on the radio shows On the Hour and Knowing Me, Knowing You,, and their television spinoffs The Day Today and Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge. Amongst other roles, Marber portrayed the hapless reporter Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan in both On the Hour and The Day Today, and was involved in a dispute with the comedians Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, who had written for On the Hour, about who had invented the character. Lee and Herring's TV show Fist of Fun, would later make several references to their ongoing feud with Marber, calling him a "Cornish playwright" and "Cornish curmudgeon". In Stewart Lee's 2010 book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate, Marber is referred to as a "new Shakespeare".

Marber reunited with the Knowing Me... team in 2003 to record commentaries for the DVD release of the show. He also contributed some new in-character audio material to the DVD release of The Day Today in 2004.

His first play was Dealer's Choice, which he also directed. Set in a restaurant and based around a game of poker (and partly inspired by his own experiences with gambling addiction), it opened at the National Theatre in February 1995, and won the 1995 Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.

After Miss Julie, a version of the Strindberg play Miss Julie, was broadcast on BBC television in the same year. In this, Marber moves the action to Britain in 1945, at the time of the Labour Party's victory in the general election, with Miss Julie as the daughter of a Labour peer. A stage version, directed by Michael Grandage, was first performed in 2003 at the Donmar Warehouse, London by Kelly Reilly, Richard Coyle and Helen Baxendale. It later had a production at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway in 2009.

His play Closer, a comedy of sex, dishonesty and betrayal, opened at the National Theatre in 1997, again directed by Marber. This too won the Evening Standard award for Best Comedy, as well as the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and Laurence Olivier awards for Best New Play. It has proved to be an international success, having been translated into thirty languages. A screen adaptation, written by Marber, was released in 2004, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen.

In Howard Katz, his next play, Marber presented very different subject matter: a middle-aged man struggling with life, death and religion. This was first performed in 2001, again at the National Theatre, but was less favourably received by the critics and has been less of a commercial success than some of his other work. A new production by the Roundabout Theatre Company opened Off-Broadway in March 2007, with Alfred Molina in the title role. A play for young people, The Musicians, about a school orchestra's visit to Russia, was performed for the National Theatre's Shell Connections programme in 2004, its first production being at the Sydney Opera House.

Don Juan in Soho, his contemporary rendering of Moliere's comedy Don Juan, opened at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006, directed by Michael Grandage and with Rhys Ifans in the lead role.

He also co-wrote the screenplay for Asylum (2005), directed by David Mackenzie, and was sole screenwriter for the film Notes on a Scandal (2006), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.

Marber's theatre directing credits include Blue Remembered Hills, by Dennis Potter (National Theatre), The Old Neighbourhood by David Mamet, (Royal Court Theatre, London) and The Caretaker by Harold Pinter, (Comedy Theatre, London).

In 2004, Marber was Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University.

Marber is a director of Lewes FC, driving forward a scheme for the club to be community owned since July 2010.

Since 2002, Marber has been married to actress Debra Gillett. They have three children.

PlayDealer's Choice

Five men gather in a restaurant late on a Sunday night before embarking on an all-night poker game. The ritual of this weekly event is disturbed by the arrival of an outsider determined to collect an overdue debt.

A play about gambling - compulsive gambling - and how those held in its vice-like grip react to, and deal with, the demons that drive them.

Both comic and savage and written with a pitch-perfect ear for the language of the desperate and the forever hopeful.

The Bench Production

Dealer's Choice poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Mugsy Jeff Bone
Sweeny Mark Wakeman
Stephen David Penrose
Frankie Dan Finch
Carl Chris Vanstone
Ash Alan Ward


Director Peter Woodward
Co-Producers Sally Hartley, Claire Lyne
Stage Manager Robin Hall
Assistant Stage Manager Verity Butler
Lighting Design Thomas Hall
Lighting and Sound Operation Paul Millington
Set Design Pete Woodward, David Penrose
Production Photography Julie Wood
Poster and Flier Design Pete Woodward
Programme Editor Derek Callam

Director's Notes

Whilst enjoying a small glass of red wine I have found, in the past, that talking with other Bench members about plays in general and how it would be fun to put them on, sometimes results in me directing one.

Some time ago Peter Corrigan and then more recently David Penrose (both excellent judges of stuff we do here in Havant) spoke warmly of a play I knew very little about - Dealer's Choice.

So I read it, immediately loved it, and eventually the company agreed to let me direct it. I must say, I am an extremely infrequent gambler, and even then a timid one; unlike Mugsy, Sweeney, Frankie, Carl, Stephen and Ash.

To me, these men, locked into an addiction most of us are unfamiliar with, are fantastic subjects for drama. I find this, coupled with a wonderful script by Patrick Marber, an exciting project, and I feel especially pleased to be part of the team that brings this show to you. I hope you enjoy it.


The NewsJames George

Every now and again you get to sit through a piece of amateur theatre and leave feeling completely thrilled.

Such is the case with The Bench's production of Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice at The Spring this week.

Not for the faint-hearted, this tragi-comedy plumbs the depths of the English language, pulling no punches linguistically or emotionally, and is, by turns, both hilarious and disturbing.

In a tightly-ensemble piece director Pete Woodward has a sublime cast, central to which is the wonderful David Penrose as Stephen, restaurateur and father - and apparently failing at both. The master of the underplayed throwaway, much of the warmth of the piece belongs to Penrose.

Chris Vanstone as his wastrel son, Carl, is a find, too and he is certainly one of the strongest young actors in The Bench's company.

The relationship between Stephen's three employees Dan Finch (Frankie), Mark Wakeman (Sweeny) and Jeff Bone (Mugsy) is well-drawn and well-played and the quick-fire dialogue is beautifully handled by the three of them, and as the dark interloper, Ash, Alan Ward is a threatening presence.

And every cast member deserves plaudits for the incredibly complex playing of the poker-game in the second act.

Catch it if you can.

The News, October 2014

Production Photographs