Multi-Award nominated Writer Safaa Benson-Effiom talks about her show ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ to show at Theatre503

Safaa Benson-Effiom and Justina Kehinde, courtesy of Steve Gregson.

Love is an incredible, complex entity – one that asks for compromise, union and the respect of one another. Whether in a newly established, long term relationship or marriage, couples learn to navigate the ebbs and flows of what comes with love. The experience of loss within a relationship, one that impacts a connection greatly and something both individuals experience on an individual and partnership level. An exploration of love and loss and how both states coincide with one another, finalist of the 2020 Theatre503 International Playwriting Award and Soho Theatre’s 2019 Tony Craze Award Safaa Benson-Effiom presents Til Death Do Us Part which will play from the 3rd to 21st May at Theatre503. Ahead of the production, Safaa tells us more about exploring the themes of love and loss further, working with the creative team to realise her vision and what she’s taken away from the show’s creative process.

Hi Safaa, your show Til Death Do Us Part will play from the 3rd to the 21st May at Theatre503. How are you feeling?

I feel great! We’re in the middle of rehearsals right now and it’s incredible seeing it all come together – I’m so proud of this thing we’re making.

Til Death Do Us Part is a portrait of love and loss and explores what happens to a relationship when the only thing holding a couple together threatens to tear them apart. What inspired you to explore this narrative further?

The play centres the breakdown of a marriage in the aftermath of profound loss. I was inspired to explore grief further after experiencing it myself for the first time and seeing how drastically varied the experience of grief and reactions to loss can be.

The play was a finalist of the 2020 Theatre503 International Playwriting Award and Soho Theatre’s 2019 Tony Craze Award. What does it mean to you to have been recognised for your work?

I’ve been living this playwriting life since I was a teenager so for things to finally be coming to fruition…I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty sweet! The best part of it for me is seeing how far I’ve come as a writer; all of those years spent working on my craft have resulted in my work being so much stronger now – and for all that to coincide with being shortlisted for these awards and having my play staged is so affirming. This play in particular was knocking around in my head for over six years before I was finally able to get it onto the page. It feels like everything is happening at precisely the right time – I am beyond grateful!

The production stars Jude Chinchen, Richard Holt and Danielle Kassaraté and is directed by Justina Kehinde. The set and costume is designed by Emeline Bering, lighting design by Chris McDonnell, composition and sound design by Tom Foskett-Barnes, movement direction by Tian Brown Sampson, stage management by Summer Keeling and production management by Misha Mah and Toby Smith. How have you all worked together to realise the show?

This has been a truly collaborative process – every single member of the team is so good at what they do and all of that expertise coming together has resulted in a really compelling piece of theatre. From the choices the actors are making as they build their characters to the overall aesthetic vision, this production is something I could never have even imagined on my own! I find myself in awe of Justina (our incredible director) every single day! Her passion for what she does and enthusiasm for this play keeps us all so inspired. Emeline has designed a set that goes way beyond the banality I imagined when I wrote it; it’s bold, original and really plays into the themes of the play without being too on the nose. All in all, my trust in our creative team has no bounds – the finished product is going to be something really special…

What have you learned/taken away from the creative process?

I’m a bit of a control freak so I made the conscious choice at the beginning of this process to be normal, to fulfil my role as the writer and allow everyone else to fulfil theirs. I thought it would be a real struggle – I thought I’d be really precious about cutting lines or resistant to the inclusion of more non-naturalistic devices. Instead, letting go and accepting that the script is a blueprint for everyone to work from, rather than something we have to replicate exactly, has been an unexpected but valued lesson.

What can audiences expect from the show?

They can expect to laugh and to cry. They can expect to feel understood and conflicted. The play touches on a lot of different themes and topics so for the most part, I hope audiences can relate – even if it’s just in some small way – and I hope it sparks conversation.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

Keeping things locked away for fear of hurting people or disrupting the status quo cannot end well. We have to be able to open up to others about our struggles but we also have to foster an environment that lets people know they can speak up. I hope our audiences take with them the message to be kinder and more mindful of their actions and how they affect others. We could avoid so much heartache if that become the norm…

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Til Death Do Us Part Tuesday 3rd until Saturday 21st May 2022 at Theatre503. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop