Friday 20 December 2019

A Taste Of Honey - Review

Trafalgar Studios, London


Written by Shelagh Delaney
Directed by Bijan Sheibani

Gemma Dobson, Tom Varey and Jodie Prenger
Arriving back in London from a tour that appropriately started off in Salford, the National Theatre’s revival of their 2014 take on Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste Of Honey makes for a glimpse of Britain’s North that is timely and refreshing. Viewed too, through the prism of December 2019’s General Election, that saw the traditional trade-union and Labour supporting regions switch their political allegiance, gives Delaney’s writing an even more pronounced perception.

Now 60 years old, the play tells a bleak working class narrative of Helen, a single Manchester mum and her teenage daughter Jo, both women craving love, seeking their own “taste of honey”. Jodie Prenger and Gemma Dobson play mother and child and each is starkly brilliant in their interpretations. Prenger’s Helen is as wise and whip-smart as she is needy and lonely. She knows the promises made to her by chancer boyfriend Peter (Tom Varey) will prove hollow, but her neediness sees her pursue the man anyway.

Dobson plays a different game in her quest for comfort and love – allowing herself first to be seduced by Jimmie (Durone Stokes) a black sailor on shore leave, before then forming a powerfully strong friendship with homosexual Geoffrey (Stuart Thompson). But this is 1950s Britain – where neither people of colour, nor gays were accepted by wider society. Speaking with me as the show opened, Prenger commented that while Britain has come a long way since Delaney’s time, there is still some distance yet to go.

Bijan Sheibani’s helming of the piece effectively delivers Delaney’s devastating text. With a three piece band on stage providing a backdrop that only adds to the play’s scorching commentary A Taste Of Honey offers up an unflinching mirror to us all.

Runs until 29th February 2020
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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