A Taste of Honey

The kitchen sink drama set in 1950s Salford pays a visit to its grass roots stopping at The Lowry from 10th – 14th June as part of a UK Tour.

By Manchester's Finest | June 11th '14

“Women never have young minds. They are born three thousand years old.”

When Shelagh Delaney wrote that quote in A Taste of Honey, she displayed how at just 18 she too was older than her years, creating one of the most defining plays of the 20th Century.

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The kitchen sink drama set in 1950s Salford pays a visit to its grass roots stopping at The Lowry from 10th – 14th June as part of a UK Tour. Hull Truck is at the helm of this latest production in conjunction with Derby Theatre and taking on the lead role of Jo, is former Shameless and Waterloo Road star Rebecca Ryan.

A Taste of Honey tells the tale of working class Jo, a 17 year old living in a run down flat with her alcoholic mother Helen who is more interested in turning her attentions to potential suitors than her daughter. Their relationship runs hot and cold as we witness men coming in and out of their fragmented lives; eye patch wearing step-husband Peter (James Weaver), black sailor Jimmie (Lekan Lawal) full of empty promises and gentle gay art student Geoff (Christopher Hancock).

“Women never have young minds. They are born three thousand years old.”

From the moment Ryan opens her mouth as the gobby teen she brings Delaney’s text to life, reveling in the sarcasm and frustration of the character. It’s perfect casting from Kay Magson here and there’s no wonder Ryan has decided to play the part for a second time in just over a year (previously appearing at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), she fits it like a glove.

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Unfortunately the same can’t be said for all of the rest of the cast. Julie Riley as Helen gives a forced performance, laying on thick the newly introduced asides to the audience and over playing the effect of some of the naturally witty dialogue. I also felt there was a blandness to Lekan Lawal’s portrayal of Jimmie the sailor that ‘loves and leaves’ Jo once he’s had his way with her.

In contrast the second half of the play opens with spark and energy as we witness the new double act of Jo and Geoff. The pairing of Ryan and Hancock works well with both actors bouncing off each other and picking up the pace of a somewhat slow version of the play. At 135 minutes long, director Mark Babych has added over half an hour to A Taste of Honey and it seems detrimental to the piece. There’s way too many songs (sung both live and recorded) in between scenes to link them together and it really doesn’t add anything except a longer time to sit in your seats.
I’ve seen quite a few productions of A Taste of Honey and this one left more of a marmite taste in my mouth. The majority of the audience seemed to love it but there were far too many changes that detracted from the grittiness of Delaney’s literary classic. Having said that it’s a great opportunity to see the Northern writers’ talent on display and provides yet another revival of A Taste of Honey, with 2 others performed in the past 18 months. Delaney may have sadly passed away in 2011 but she has left behind a legacy that still stands the test of time over a half a century on and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Runs at The Lowry, Salford till 14th June
www.thelowry.com