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.
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 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 Molière’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.
In June 2015, his play, The Red Lion, opened at the National Theatre.
Marber’s theatre directing credits include Three Days In The Country (National Theatre, 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.