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A Taste Of Honey

Published 19 February 2014

What’s it all about?

This is a revival of Shelagh Delaney’s seminal drama featuring possibly one of the most vivid mother/daughter relationships ever to be penned.

For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to have it on your GCSE syllabus, the drama takes place in working-class Salford – here imagined as a Hildegard Bechtler-designed shabby living room – and tells the story of flighty single mother Helen who runs off with a decidedly sleazy businessman leaving her teenage daughter Jo facing single motherhood; always a controversial prospect in 1950s England but especially so when the father of your child is a black sailor.  

Who’s in it?

Lesley Sharp and Kate O’Flynn, who I’d safely bet next month’s rent cheque will be attracting the attention of many a theatre award panelist for their near flawless performances. Sharp is electric as Helen, treading the line between vulnerable and monstrous in an unsettling performance that brings a palpable energy to the Lyttelton. As she manically struts around the stage, Sharp manages to both entrance and sicken the audience with her cruel wit and selfish pursuit of any means necessary to escape from her dank, smelly and noisy street.

She may be a newcomer in comparison but O’Flynn holds her own and equally impresses as the no nonsense Jo; brilliantly capturing the state between childhood and adulthood, and effectively flitting from the role of her mother’s carer to a shrieking, terrified teenager.

What should I look out for?

While mixed race relationships and single motherhood may no longer – thankfully – shock today’s audiences, the relationship between mother and daughter, love and survival has not dated. Prepare to be in awe of the then 19-year-old Delaney’s ability to capture a snapshot of society with acute poignancy and an acidic wit. She clearly relished writing the tough and fast-witted dialogue between Jo and Helen, and audiences will find themselves swept up in it too in Bijan Sheibani’s near three hour pacey production.

Who was in the press night crowd?

A host of National Theatre acting alumni who we spotted Nicolas Hytner catching up with in the bar at the interval.

In a nutshell?

Lesley Sharp is magnificent in an electric performance as the most dysfunctional of mothers.  

What people on Twitter are saying:

@pbbpbbpbb Sticking my neck out here and saying that Taste of Honey was one of the best shows I’ve seen in London so far. What a great play.

@dan_hutton Just when I thought I couldn’t love Kate O’Flynn any more, she goes & pulls a blinder in A Taste Of Honey. Lesley Sharp isn’t half bad either

Will I like it?

If you like theatre where the only tricks are in the casting, A Taste Of Honey will undoubtedly be up your street. Short of some Kneehigh-inspired dance filled scene changes, Sheibani’s production is as traditional as they come, but when you’re working with a script as strong as Delaney’s, letting the words speak for themselves is all that’s needed.


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