Monkeying around at the Arcola Theatre London

Will Self's 1997 novel is a satire on contemporary machismo and also a challenge to familiar notions of what constitutes civilised behaviour. This skilful adaptation by Patrick Marmion captures its blend of shrewd observation, linguistic bravura and shameless puns.

Bryan Dick brings an angsty revulsion to artist Simon Dykes, who wakes up one morning to find he’s in a world run by chimps. At first he thinks he has simply guzzled too many drugs, but soon his longstanding obsession with perspective is being sorely tested. As Simon struggles to adjust to a society in which bum display and voracious public sex are the norm, psychiatrists try to rescue him from the delusion that he’s human.

Indebted to Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift, the story takes an idea that might suit a five-minute TV sketch and extends it beyond absurdity into the realms of madness. Jokes about bottoms proliferate, as do densely scientific speeches, yet after a rather frantic opening first-time director Oscar Pearce maintains a firm grasp on the show’s tumbling craziness.

The cast includes Stephen Ventura as Simon’s critic-baiting gallerist and John Cummins as an Oxford academic fond of quaffing liquid excrement. All the actors are wholly committed to their apish physicality - squirming around on crutches and indulging in a feast of sniffing, whooping, grooming and rutting. The standout is Ruth Lass as Zack Busner, a maverick shrink who focuses the piece’s unsettling interest in modern neuroses and biological destiny.

Playwright David Hare on writing television drama for BBC Two

There has been a fair amount of film and television drama about the two formative events of the early century - the invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis. But of the third great challenge - the waves of migration prompted by war, poverty and fresh persecution - we have seen much less.

As a viewer, I have always loved drama like Cathy Come Home, The Boys From The Blackstuff and A Very British Coup, which succeeded in moving television fiction into new areas. At its start, Collateral may seem to be familiar. After all, it does involve a police investigation. But I hope you will notice the absence of any of the usual apparatus of police procedurals. I can promise you there are no shots of computers or pentel boards. After an illegal immigrant is shot in the opening moments, I am much more interested in exploring how the death of one individual, who has lived out of the sight of respectable society, resonates and reaches into various interconnecting lives.

One of the common paradoxes of our time is that even as we lose faith in public institutions, so our belief in private virtue holds steady. Collateral takes us through various British institutions and, most especially, through our weird and shaky detention system - and asks why so many organizations seem deliberately structured in a way which prevents individuals being allowed to exercise their own judgements and standards. Why are we feeling disempowered?

I have come late in life to writing my first episodic television, but I was guided by two expert producers, George Faber and Mark Pybus. When SJ Clarkson joined to direct, then we began to observe a strange phenomenon. Not a single actor turned us down. We got our first available choice for every role. This seemed to us evidence that if you seek to annexe new subject matter on television everyone will want to join you in the endeavour. By the time Netflix allied with the BBC, and Carey Mulligan, Billie Piper, Nicola Walker, John Simm and Nathaniel Martello-White were foreground in SJ’s gritty, fleetingly beautiful urban landscapes, I was pretty much in TV heaven.


Jez Butterworth, Playwright, Screenwriter and Film Director

Butterworth has had major success with his play Mojo which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre London in 1995. I won the Laurence Olivier, George Devine and Critic’s Circle Award. Butterworth wrote and directed the film adaptation of Mojo, released in 1997. He directed and co-wrote with his brother Tom the film Birthday Girl (2001) which was produced by his brother Steve and starred Nicole Kidman. Butterworth also achieved positive reviews with his plays The Night Heron (2002) and The Winterling (2006). His play Parlour Song opened to rave reviews at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York in March 2008.

Butterworth's fourth play for the Royal Court was the comedy Jerusalem (2009). The production starred Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron and featured Mackenzie Crook as Ginger in a supporting role. It was a sell-out at the Royal Court and with the same cast transferred to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in January 2010. On 26 October 2012, Butterworth's play The River opened at the Royal Court starring Dominic West, Laura Donnelly and Miranda Raison.

After the wild successes of his State-of-England play Jerusalem and Northern Irish drama The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth again turns to matters of national identity in the wild and highly entertaining new epic series Britannia, this time looking at the cataclysmic impact of the Roman invasion. All episodes will be available on demand in the UK starting on 18 January 2018.

Masterclass Playwright David Mamet teaches dramatic writing

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life's strangest moments into dramatic art. He'll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

Trying to understand drama? Look no further than everyday life. David teaches you how to recognize drama at its best. Learn how drama functions as a form of myth, the ways in which it enlightens the complexities of humanity, and how it provides us with an outlet for expressing the issues that preoccupy us.

As a dramatist, your job is to tell a story. David teaches you how to keep your story simple by using Aristotle's Poetics as a guide. Learn how to keep your hero's journey at the heart of your narrative. Start at the beginning of your story and don't stop until you reach the end. Throw away anything that isn't plot. David teaches you what to cut from your script and how to master the rules of writing.

David teaches you how to harness your fantasies and life experiences for drama. Look for drama in places where you'd least expect it and discover the inspiration behind several of his plays. David teaches you what character really is action. Learn how to create objectives for your characters and avoid the erroneous techniques commonly taught.

Plot is paramount. Become familiar with the essential ingredients of a plot like the precipitating event and the second-act problem. Learn how to find the plot hiding behind your scenes. David shares with you the methods he uses to structure a plot and teaches you how to connect plot points.

Learn how David developed his style for writing dialogue, famously known as "Mamet-speak," and where to draw inspiration when trying to write great dialogue. David talks about what informs and motivates dialogue, and how to achieve a musicality and rhythm in your character's speech pattern. 

Writing drama is not the same as conveying information. A dramatist's job is to entertain, not bore, the audience. Learn how to recognize unnecessary narration and exposition and how to let the audience help you cut it out. Every scene must contain three things. Learn what those are and how to recognize and remove scenes that are unnecessary to your script.

Learn how David reveres his audiences, what they are looking for when they come to the theatre, and how to learn from them. And finally in the role of the theatre director, how he views what makes a great actor and how to cast the right ones for your play.