A Taste of Honey
A gritty snapshot into the working class lives of a mother and daughter in the 1950's. Chaotically bleak but tragically captivating.
When A Taste Of Honey first hit the stage in 1958, it caused a sensation – a gritty kitchen sink play with strong female leads which was a complete contrast to the usual drawing room comedies of the time. Nineteen year old Shelagh Delaney’s depictions of the lives and struggles of the British working class were incredibly frank and honest, which gained her a reputation as an angry young women – urghhh typical!
The play follows the bleak lives of mother Helen (Jodie Prenger) a promiscuous middle-aged woman who marries the aggressive younger man Peter (Tom Varey), Jo (Gemma Dobson) her permanently dissatisfied 17-year-old who gets pregnant by a Nigerian sailor Jimmie (Durone Stokes) and Jo’s gay best friend Geoff played fantastically by Stuart Thompson.
Set entirely within a cramped 1950’s Salford flat (you could almost smell the mould), this warring mother and daughter personify the saying “we don’t ask for life, we have it thrust upon us”. Prenger and Dobson’s chemistry felt scarily authentic during their many explosive arguments when they would hurl their lines at each other with fury. The working class passion and cynicism are personified within Jodie Prenger’s performance as matriarch Helen, her crudeness and razor tongue were as cruel as they were captivating.
The story of a young white girl made pregnant by a black man and then going to live with a gay man would have been an incredibly risque storyline in 1958, however not so much for today’s soap box generation. I can imagine the shock value would have drawn quite a crowd, but now this play is more a snapshot into the harsh reality of the time, brilliantly carried by the four main characters and Delaney’s sharp script and dialogue.
Special shoutout to the super talented pianist, drummer and double bassist who gave a moody, romantic feel to the performance – especially when paired with Prenger and Durone Stokes’ fantastic singing voices respectively. I would have liked to have heard more but I guess this is a thought provoking play with song rather than a working class happy ending musical.
Words: Fran Massingham