A Taste of Honey, Shelagh Delaney’s ground breaking 1950s play about changing and unchanging social order in the working class Britain of her times, is the opening 2013 production at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay St.
Written when Delaney was 18 and taken up by Joan Littlewood, the play is breath-takingly good. Tony Cownie, who directed this revival, names his favourite line in the programme (when did they become £2.50, even for subscribers?), but we’ll all have our own. A Taste of Honey is that kind of work.
Delaney tackles the unchanging cycle of single parent creating single parent, homophobia, drink and racism, with such precision and insight, it’s hard to remember the writer was as young as she was. Did she simply record what she saw and heard? At eighteen, she’d not travelled or even studied that much. And yet she gives us a play of warmth and humour contrasted with bleakness and dystopian dark that challenges many other writers who were older, had studied, had travelled.
Performed without overt violence or sexual scenes, the play involves and delights its audience in equal measure. As the second act moves through, you do begin to wonder how it will finish and the programme hints at Littlewood having influenced the ending. My companion was unhappy with the ending. He’d grown to care so much for Jo, he wanted to know more. Can there be a finer tribute to an author?
Excellent performances from the whole cast. Terrific set, used to great effect. Get along there. Run ends 9th February ’13