Great Apes is a new play by Patrick Marmion directed by RSC and Donmar actor Oscar Pearce (Wolf Hall, Real Thing), based on the novel by Will Self. It is a raucous, surreal modern satire that mixes Self’s famously rich language with subtle simian movement and vocalisations to create a theatrical ‘Planet of the Apes’ crossed with ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. With set and costume design by Sarah Beaton, movement by Jonnie Riordan, lighting by Matt Haskins and sound by Dan Balfour.
When Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Dykes wakes up one morning after a wild night out, he finds his world has changed beyond recognition. His girlfriend, Sarah, has turned into a chimpanzee. And, to Simon’s horror, so has the rest of humanity.
Suffering a nervous breakdown Simon is immediately taken to Charing Cross hospital where he’s treated for being under the psychotic delusion that he’s a human being. Here he comes under the care of charismatic and controversial chimp psychiatrist, Dr Zack Busner who helps Simon come to terms with his condition.
‘Where better for him to re-learn his essential chimpunity than by brachiating in the fresh air or Hampstead Heath with all the pansexual mating opportunities that affords?’
Great Apes is a hilarious, uncanny and unnervingly original take on humanity’s place in the evolutionary chain. It is a modern odyssey into the abiding mystery of what it means to be a human being.
Since its publication by Bloomsbury in 1997 at the height of the YBA explosion and Cool Britannia, Will Self’s novel remains an extraordinary intellectual vision, a linguistic feast and a disturbing triumph of the imagination.
Writer and producer Patrick Marmion is a journalist, theatre critic, speaker and Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent. Previous plays include The Divided Laing (Arcola Theatre), Terms & Conditions (White Bear), Pieta – After Chekhov (Finborough & Print Room), Osterley (Urban Scrawl), The Institute (Etcetera). Screenplays include ‘Mushroom Soup’ (Sam Mendes/Renaissance Films),’ Kids FM’ (Working Title Television), ‘Maid Marion’ (Channel Four Films), ‘Archie Tanner & The Dodo’ (Children’s Film & Television Foundation) and ‘The Dead Guy’ (based on novel of same title).
Making his directorial debut is award-winning actor Oscar Pearce. A regular with the RSC his credits include Wolf Hall, Greg Doran’s celebrated A Midsummer Nights Dream and the renowned Spanish Golden Age Season. He has appeared in the West End many times including the Donmar Production of The Real Thing, which transferred to Broadway and I.D. at the Almeida. His portrayal of Chris in All My Sons at the Bolton Octagon won him the MEN best-supporting actor. This is his third collaboration with the Arcola after appearing in the feted Jenufa and the more recent success, The Divided Lang.
Movement director Jonnie Riordan is a graduate of Frantic Assembly’s ‘Ignition’ programme. As Movement Director his credits include Connections Festival 16/17 (National Theatre), Maggie & Pierre (Finborough Theatre), CAUGHT (Pleasance Theatre), Cracking, Hooked and Bat Boy (Iso Productions, New Wimbledon Studio). As a Director: Man Up (Frantic Assembly Ignition, Stratford Circus, Latitude), Boy Magnet and White Noise (ThickSkin) and Found (The Albany). Jonnie is directing the first stage adaptation of Nigel Slater’s Toast at The Lowry in May. .
Set and costume design is by Sarah Beaton, recipient of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design. Design credits include Faust (Schauspielbuhnen in Stuttgart), Mother Christmas (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs),Babur in London (Theatre Rigiblick, Zürich/Lilian Baylis Studio), Crocodiles (Royal Exchange, Manchester), This Is Living (Trafalgar Studios), Diary of a Madman (Sherman Cymru/Tobacco Factory), And Now: The World! (Derby Theatre), And Here I am (Arcola, Palestine Tour) and The Man I Live With (Oxford Playhouse).
Matt Haskins is an international lighting designer. Credits include Peter Pan Goes Wrong (Apollo Theatre), Roundelay, Truth and Reconciliation (Royal Court), No One Will Tell Me How To Start A Revolution, Kiss Me (Hampstead Theatre), Crocodiles (Royal Exchange, Manchester), A Bright Room Called Day (Southwark Playhouse), Dream Story (Gate Theatre) and The House of Mirrors & Hearts (Arcola Theatre), Walk with Me (Girl Effect/Punchdrunk) and Dido, Queen of Carthage (Kensington Palace).
Sound design is by Dan Balfour. Recent credits include: #Dr@cula, The Devils (Royal Central School Of Speech Drama), Seafret (Old Red Lion, HighTide Festival), Figures Of Speech (Almeida Theatre), I Call My Brothers, Caught, Red Helicopter (Arcola Theatre), RE: Home (Yard Theatre), DREAM, Jenufa –Opera Works (English National Opera), Walking the SOLO (Bush Theatre), Nude (The Hope Theatre) and Deathwatch (The Roundhouse),
Co-producer Steve Hennessy is the author of over 20 plays for stage and radio and the founder of Stepping Out Theatre, the country’s leading mental health theatre company. They have been producing work on mental health themes with theatre professionals and mental health service users since 1997. Steve’s work includes the acclaimed Lullabies of Broadmoor Quartet (Oberon Books) – four plays about well-known Broadmoor patients which toured nationally in 2011. The Divided Laing was Stepping Out’s 54th production.
Casting to be announced shortly.
The Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL
Wednesday 14 March to Saturday 21 April
Press Night: Monday 19 March at 7pm
Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, plus Saturday matinees at 3pm
Wednesday matinees on 4 April, 11th April and 18th April at 3pm.