As the National Theatre’s revival of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey opens at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, starring Jodie Prenger, let’s look back to The Stage’s first review of the play, when it premiered at Theatre Royal Stratford East in May, 1958.
Our reviewer applauded Joan Littlewood’s direction and said: “Shelagh Delaney is a 19-year-old factory worker in Salford. This fact is stated on the programme in accordance with Theatre Workshop’s normal procedure and not as an excuse for any immaturity in her work.
“A Taste of Honey is a perfectly good play in its own right, regardless of the age or experience of the author. It is, however, a play which must depend for full effect largely upon the understanding and ability of the director, and it is interesting to speculate upon how much of its theatrical quality comes from the author’s inborn understanding, how much from happy chance, and how much from Littlewood’s expert manipulation.
“It is its lack of sentimentality which makes this play exceptionally moving. Had there been one hint of mawkishness, the tears and laughter it evokes would soon have changed to a less decorative physical manifestation.
“Josephine is very well played by Frances Cuka, who has changing emotions of adolescence at her fingertips. As the mother, Avis Bunnage is richly raucous and John Bay excels in controlled nastiness as her husband.”
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