A new revival of Shelagh Delaney’s seminal drama A Taste Of Honey comes to Trafalgar Studios. Written when Shelagh was just 19, this play follows an intense and vividly written dysfunctional family in working class post-war Salford.
Following the tempestuous relationship between flighty single mother, Helen, and her wayward teenage daughter, Jo, the play was very controversial when it was first written.
Putting working class lives – and especially women – at the forefront, Shelagh writes of Jo’s relationship with Jimmy, a young black sailor who is just passing through. After her mother runs off with a sleazy car salesman, Jo is left facing single motherhood as Jimmy prepares to ship out to sea and moves in with her gay friend Geoffrey who acts as surrogate parent until the two women must confront each other and the consequences of their actions.
A storyline of an unmarried teenage girl getting pregnant with a mixed-race baby and then moving in with a homosexual friend would have been incredibly shocking and taboo to Shelagh’s contemporary audience.
While these elements are no longer a scandalous shock running through the play, the lovingly painted but bleak portrait of loving and surviving in poverty remains relevant today.
At the time, A Taste Of Honey stood out as a play that focused entirely on women and female relationships, with men as foils and on the fringes. This play well and truly passed the Bechdel test before it was even invented.
Directed by Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles) and designed by Hildegard Bechtler (Antony and Cleopatra), the production features original musical compositions influenced by blues and soul and rearrangements from the jazz era performed live on stage by the cast and an on-stage three-piece band.
Jodie Prenger (Oliver!, One Man, Two Guvnors) leads the cast as Helen and Gemma Dobson (Best Actress in a Play winner at The Stage Debut Awards 2018) as Jo.