In one of Benet\'s all-time favourite productions, he staged Elizabeth Kuti\'s little known masterpiece about Irish Quakers and sexual repression in the 1850s as one of the final productions of the third year group at Birmingham School of Acting.
Hannah and Samuel are Quakers and have given up many of the pleasures of life to serve the causes they hold dear. But Samuel is rich from selling sugar abroad. When they welcome two guests to stay with them, a Yorkshire photographer who disowned his family, and the American slave girl he bought to free, all four of them are confronted with new opportunities for freedom, or to lose it. Meanwhile, Martha, a local prostitute who Hannah has supported, is dying.
Presented in traverse on a beautiful spare set by Rob Dicks, The Sugar Wife was staged in Benet\'s typically fluid style with scenes bleeding into each other, choreographed stylised transitions, and a lighting design in which every scene was lit like one of the daguerreotypes that feature in the story - a mixture of light, dark and shadows.
In the closing moments, as Samuel expressed his tragic and seemingly unrequited love for his wife, the set crashed dramatically to the ground, strewing sugar and tea all over the floor. Once Hannah declared her love and thanks to her husband \"at the end of a long winter\'s darkness\", at last, after nearly 3 hours in which they scarcely touched, the couple locked into an embrace, the lights opened out to reveal the arrival of spring and blossom began to fall.
The production was astonishingly well acted by its cast of five actors who were about to leave BSA, and marked them out - as so often at this drama school - as actors with great futures.
Two of the cast have gone on to play lead roles for the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival 2015, for which Ben has directed three shows in recent years.