Play by Michael Frayn. Spanning a period of 15 years, Benefactors traces the intricate relationship of two neighbouring couples. Jane and David are successful, happy professionals while Sheila and Colin are angry, insecure and isolated. Benefactors explores the interplay between politics and architecture, those who help and those who are helped, those who create and those who destroy.
Benefactors - Original London West End Production 1984
Previewed 28 March 1984, Opened 4 April 1984, closed 7 September 1985 at the Vaudeville Theatre
The original cast up to Saturday 6 October 1984 featured Patricia Hodge as 'Jane', Oliver Cotton as 'David', Brenda Blethyn as 'Shelia' and Tim Pigott-Smith as 'Colin'. The cast from Monday 8 October 1984 to 7 September 1985 featured Polly Adams as 'Jane', Glyn Grain as 'David', Jan Waters as 'Shelia' and Clive Francis as 'Colin'. Directed by Michael Blakemore with designs by Michael Annals.
This production won both the 1984 Evening Standard Theatre Award and the 1985 Olivier Award for 'Best Play'. Following the West End run, the director Michael Blakemore and designer Michael Annals transferred this production to New York's Broadway for a six month run with an American cast featuring Glen Close in the role of 'Jane'.
Benefactors - 1st West End Revival 2002
Previewed 19 June 2002, Opened 25 June 2002, Closed 28 September 2002 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)
The cast featured Sylvestra Le Touzel as 'Jane', Aden Gillett as 'David', Emma Chambers as 'Shelia' and Neil Pearson as as 'Colin'. Directed by Jeremy Sams with designs by Robert Jones, lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by John Leonard.
Despite being diagnosed with Achilles' tendonitis just prior to this production opening in the West End, Aden Gillett continued to play the role of 'David', the architect. He said that "the only way I can cure it is by having it in a cast, but I can't do that until the run ends. I do want the play to have as long a run as possible, but I am getting a stabbing pain whenever I move. I'm taking something a little stronger than aspirin for it." His co-star Emma Chambers revealed: "Every time he comes off stage he puts his leg in ice. We keep wondering when it's going to snap. When it came to his first night card, I knew I couldn't write: 'Break a leg.'!"
"They say no good deed goes unpunished. Michael Frayn's absorbing and witty fourhander Benefactors, first produced in 1984 and now in a new production by Jeremy Sams at the Albery Theatre, shows the multifarious consequences of helping people... Has it dated? Obviously the architectural issues about high rise living are of historical interest - but then they already were in the mid-1980s. The action begins, after all, in 1968. And in any case Benefactors' main themes - the presumptions behind philanthropy, the thrill of change, how power in friendships shifts and how (an architectural metaphor!) the higher you build, the more the chance of progressive collapse - are pretty timeless concerns. What has changed between its original production and now, of course, is that nobody helps anybody nowadays if they can avoid it. It's only this that makes the play remote." The Daily Mail
"It is a bleak if witty play about town planning and two closely observed marriages which opens during the heady days of 1968. David is a blithe architect planning to demolish a chunk of Victorian South London and to put up some enlightened new housing. His marriage to the competent Jane is contrasted to the shambolic couple over the road who are constantly in their kitchen sponging meals off them - you know the sort. Pearson plays Colin, forever putting down his mousy wife, Sheila, crackingly well portrayed by Emma Chambers. Her welcoming neighbours take pity on her, even offer her a job as assistant to David with whom this Miss Mousy promptly falls in love... Frayn makes all sorts of points about the road to hell being paved with good intentions, how the people we dislike are often most like us, how philanthropy never starts at home. Yet, brilliantly acted though it is, in the end this is a play to admire from a distance rather than one to warm to." The Daily Express
"Michael Frayn's Benefactors tells the tale of a crusading architect, David Kitzinger, whose project for a vast high-rise development is defeated by a swing in public opinion; and whose attempts to help his neighbour, Colin, only turn this former college friend into his bitter enemy... Frayn takes the obvious point - the impotence of the god-like architect to control human relationships - and develops it into a dramatic structure that combines present and past, close-up and long-range, within a free-flowing narrative... The peace-loving David is played by Aden Gillett, one of the most dangerous actors at large on the English stage. The watchfully feline Sylvestra Le Touzel appears as his big-hearted wife. Neil Pearson, famed as a put-upon specialist, plays the sabre-toothed Colin; and Emma Chambers bounces cheerfully through the role of the supposedly hopeless Sheila. These characters contain their opposites, as the play goes on to confirm; and, when the gentle Kitzingers discover anger in themselves, it is like a building blowing up." The Sunday Telegraph
Benefactors in London at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) previewed from 19 June 2002, opened on 25 June 2002 and closed on 28 September 2002