Writer: Shelagh Delaney
Director: Polly Findlay
Reviewer: Sheila Stratford
The Public Reviews Rating:
Make sure you arrive early in your seat so you can enjoy the on stage jazz trio before the play begins. The music will get you in the mood for your trip back to the late fifties to watch this compelling kitchen sink drama.
Sixteen year old Jo has been brought up by her dysfunctional mother Helen, whose main interests are drink and men. The pair argues constantly, so when her mother goes off to marry a younger man Peter, Jo remains alone in the flat. Jo quickly falls in love with a sailor and becomes pregnant. We watch the feisty teenager deal with her pregnancy with help from her new sensitive flatmate Geoff.
The late playwright Shelagh Delaney was born in Salford in 1939. She led the way as a working class Northern girl in the 1950s writing for theatre that up to then was mainly dominated by middle class men. The play was later successfully adapted by her for film and went on to win 4 BAFTA awards.
A Taste of Honey covers many issues that are still pertinent today, childhood pregnancy, race, homosexuality, drink, poor housing. It is the witty, sometimes cutting banter between the characters that carries you along with the play for what could otherwise be a depressing, play full of bullying. The play holds the audience and you want to see what will happen to the different characters.
Katie West as Jo, the spirited teenager with a hard shell, is onstage throughout and puts all her energy into the part. You can see her physically tire as she copes with her pregnancy. Christopher Hancock plays a most convincing, kind flatmate engendering some tenderness into the play and evokes genuine compassion for his character. The role of Jo’s mother, acted by Eva Pope, rapidly swings from selfishness, self regret, and criticism one moment to frivolity, concern and excitement for the coming baby the next .The character is well acted but difficult to square with at times.
The thrust stage of the Crucible gives you an intimate relationship with the activity on the stage. The scene changes are punctuated by the stage rotating and the onstage actors moving the props, in an almost choreographed dance which carries the play along. There are some solo songs in the play which are sung beautifully but seem slightly incongruous in the setting of the play.
The setting of the squalid 1950s flat is enhanced by the background sound of rain and damp. There is some genuine 1950s furniture though I would personally have liked to have seen some linoleum to complete the scene. For those who like 1950s fashion there are some good examples to see.
This is kitchen sink drama at its best. The soaps of today would find it hard to match.
Runs until 17 November 2012
A Taste of Honey – The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield,