A Taste Of Honey

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A Taste Of Honey


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A Taste of Honey is the first play by the British dramatist Shelagh Delaney, written when she was 19. It was intended as a novel, but she turned it into a play because she hoped to revitalise British theatre and address social issues that she thought were not being presented. The play was produced by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, a socialist fringe theatre in London, on 27 May 1958. It starred Frances Cuka as Jo and Avis Bunnage as her mother. The production then transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End on 10 February 1959. The play was adapted into an award winning film of the same title in 1961 with an entirely different cast except for Murray Melvin as Geoff. A Taste of Honey is set in Salford in North West England in the 1950s. It tells the story of Jo, a working class schoolgirl, and her mother, Helen, who is presented as tarty, foul mouthed and promiscuous. Helen leaves Jo alone in their new flat after she begins a relationship with Peter, a flashy, moneyed "wide boy" who is younger than her. The school leaving age was 15, Jo is in school uniform and they were poor, which means that Jo is probably 15 years old. The age of consent was 16. At the same time Jo, who is white, begins a romantic relationship with Jimmy, a black sailor. She tells him she is nearly 18 and therefore nearly old enough to marry without parental permission. He proposes marriage but then goes to sea, leaving Jo pregnant and alone. She finds lodgings with a gay acquaintance, Geoffrey, who assumes the role of surrogate father. The words "queer", "nancy boy", "bastard" and "illegitimate" were in widespread use at the time. Helen returns after leaving her lover and the future of Jo's new home is put into question. A Taste of Honey comments on, and puts into question, class, race, age of sexual consent, gender, sexual orientation and illegitimacy in mid-twentieth-century Britain. It became known as a "kitchen sink" play, part of a genre revolutionising British theatre at the time. By way of a visual backdrop to A Taste of Honey, Delaney reflected on life in Salford in a documentary, directed by Ken Russell, for BBC television's Monitor that was broadcast on 26 September 1960.