Shelagh Delaney comes from Salford and had a working class upbringing. She left school at the age of 15, worked in a factory and as a photographer's assistant before writing her first play. She had an early taste of theatre when she met David Scase - a member of Theatre Workshop - in the pioneering days in Manchester and asked him how she should go about becoming a producer. There were no vacancies for students in the company, but he encouraged her to come along and watch rehearsals so that she would at least get the feel of the theatre. This tall, unobtrusive observant girl made no mention of her wish to write and the company was surprised when subsequently it discovered she had written "A Taste of Honey". She has written several adult stories, and her second play "The Lion in Love" was produced in 1960, and afterwards a short tour was presented at the Royal Court Theatre. ...............Alfred Bradley (1962)
"A taste of Honey" is set in a slum room in house in Shelagh Delaney's home town, Salford. Jo is 15 and has been dragged up by a restless mother, a raucous tarty woman with a zest for drink and men. They move into a squalid room in Salford overlooking the docks and slaughterhouse. Helen has a heavy cold but she is cheered up by the arrival of one of her boy friends, Peter, a flashy car salesman with a chromium plated line of patter and he persuades her to go away with him. Jo is left alone and when her negro boy friend arrives she asks him to stay over Christmas with her. When he goes away, Jo realises she is pregnant. She is helped by Geoffrey, a gentle young homosexual art student who moves into the flat with her and helps her prepare for the the baby. After some months, Helen returns, taunts Geoffrey, and pushes him out. In a sentimental burst of maternal instinct she tells Jo that she will stay with her and the love - hate relationship picks up where it left off.
A Taste of Honey is linked with the the Theatre Workshop and its producer Joan Littlewood. It was her production in 1958 which brought the play to life.
Shelagh Delaney became famous overnight. Although the story is set in a slum and deals with a sorry group of people, the play contains no bitterness and the adolescent heroine has an unshakeable optimism.
David Nathan wrote "the play is loosely constructed but the writing, salty and uncompromising, is as alive as the Saturday night streets of Salford. The treatment is unsentimental and refreshing". The Sunday Express was less impressed but the Observer found it intelligent, moving and original. "Miss Delaney's vision is of the kind in which the younger generation of English writers excel - the eye and ear of an expert realist controlled by the imagination, the fancy of a poet. Her additional advantage is a surprisingly mature acceptance of life and of people, a lack of that shrill, egocentric protesting note that spoils so much of the best new English writing".
( summarised from "From the Fifties" - compiled by Michael Bakewell and Eric Ewens, 1962, a BBC publication to accompany the 1961-2 radio drama series.)
BBC RADIO PLAYS
A TASTE OF HONEY....1977 and 1982(rpt)
SO DOES THE NIGHTINGALE....1980
DON'T WORRY ABOUT MATILDA....1983
Out of the Pirate's Playhouse....2003
SWEETLY SINGS THE DONKEY....2003
TELL ME A FILM....2003
Baloney Said Salome....2004
A Taste of Honey....2004
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website
Asterisked plays known to exist in VRPCC collections
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