A Taste of Honey


A Taste of Honey is the first play by the British dramatist Shelagh Delaney, written when she was 18. It was initially intended as a novel, but she turned it into a play because she hoped to revitalise British theatre and to address social issues that she felt were not being presented. The play was first produced by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and was premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, a small fringe theatre in London, on 27 May 1958. The production then transferred to the larger 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.

A Taste of Honey is set in Salford in North West England in the 1950s. It tells the story of Jo, a seventeen-year-old working class girl, and her mother, Helen, who is presented as crude and sexually indiscriminate. Helen leaves Jo alone in their new flat after she begins a relationship with Peter, a rich lover who is younger than her. At the same time Jo begins a romantic relationship with Jimmy, a black sailor. He proposes marriage but then goes to sea, leaving Jo pregnant and alone. She finds lodgings with a homosexual acquaintance, Geoffrey, who assumes the role of surrogate father. 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, gender and sexual orientation 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.[1]

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