Benefactors: A fresh exploration of a time gone by

Benefactors currently gracing the Ensemble Theatre stage offers an intellectually stimulating and emotionally charged experience. With its masterful storytelling and nuanced characters, this production skilfully delves into the intricacies of human relationships, ambition, and unintended consequences.

Set in 1960s London, Benefactors centres around two neighbouring couples: David and Jane, and Colin and Sheila. David, an ambitious architect, embarks on a project to rebuild the dilapidated inner-London housing project. As the narrative unfolds, the lines between friendship, manipulation, and self-interest blur, revealing the tangled web of human desires and compromises.

The play raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of altruism and the limits of personal ambition. Frayn’s script skilfully explores the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters, leaving the audience introspective and engaged throughout. The dialogue is sharp, witty, and laced with profound insights into human nature, making for an intellectually satisfying experience.

One of the play’s standout qualities is its ability to evoke many emotions. From levity and humour to poignant and heart-wrenching scenes, the production effortlessly navigates the emotional spectrum. The audience is compelled to empathise with the characters as they grapple with their desires and the consequences of their actions.

The production’s design elements contribute to the overall immersive experience. The set design by Nick Fry effectively captures the middle-class urban setting. In full complement, the lighting design by Matt Cox creates dynamic moods that enhance the narrative’s tension and emotional beats. The costumes are period-appropriate and add authenticity to the characters’ portrayal.

Mark Kilmurry, Director, brings Frayn’s compelling script to life with exceptional direction. The staging is minimalist yet effective, allowing the actors’ talent to take centre stage. Each character is intricately developed, capturing the complexities of their motivations and emotions. Gareth Davies (David), Megan Drury (Sheila), Matt Minto (Colin) and Emma Palmer (Jane) deliver outstanding performances, effortlessly embodying the conflicts and vulnerabilities of their respective roles.

“Benefactors” succeeds in its ability to resonate with contemporary audiences despite being set in the past. Its exploration of ambition, friendship, and the complexities of human relationships remains relevant and relatable. Frayn’s script, brought to life by the talented cast and creative team, reminds us of the timeless nature of human desires and the ripple effects of our actions. As the final curtain falls, the audience is left contemplating the profound impact of our choices and the intricate dynamics that shape our lives.

Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Benefactors runs for 2 hours 20 mins (including 20 min interval) and plays at Ensemble Theatre through 22 July 2023. Tickets are available through the Ensemble Theatre Box Office.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku PR.
Image credit: Prudence Upton.