A Taste of Honey is a play that debuted in 1958 and the first play written by Shelagh Delaney at the young age of 19. A ‘kitchen sink’ realism drama, the performance follows mother and daughter ‘Helen’ and ‘Jo,’ and their new lives when they move into a new flat in Salford.
The chemistry between them is lovely and it’s bittersweet when you find out the outcome of their relationship in the second act.
Chris Lawson directed the edition of the play that is currently on until 9 June at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. The get-go the performances by Gemma Dobson (Jo) and Kerrie Taylor (Helen) draw you in with their raw, realistic ‘back and forth’ repartee. Kerrie Taylor’s portrayal of boozy Helen is stimulating. She plays Helen as a very cranky and distracted mother throughout the play, claiming to care what’s best for her daughter but not always listening completely and reaching for more drink whenever possible. Gemma Dobson breathes life into Jo just as much and Jo becomes the character you are rooting for despite the circumstances she goes through. Jo falls in love with a black sailor named Jimmie, portrayed by Kenton Thomas, and their ‘young love’ scenes are full of charm and sweetness. The chemistry between them is lovely and it’s bittersweet when you find out the outcome of their relationship in the second act.
Another outstanding performance in Chris Lawson and designer Sammy Dowson’s version of A Taste of Honey, is definitely Max Runham as Geoffrey. A classic ‘cheeky-chappy’ boy, he’s there for Jo during her pregnancy and cheers her up with rhymes and food in the absence of her mother. Geof is another character you hope the best for. Runham constantly brings energy on stage no matter what his character is doing. Helen’s wealthy boyfriend Peter is almost deemed an antagonist during this performance and Peter is portrayed amazingly by Phil Rowson. Both the ladies, Rowson and Runham share occasional scenes together in Act 2 and those were the most gripping moments, reflecting how talented and unique each performer was.
Despite ‘silver linings’ being implied for the character’s futures throughout the play, including Geof and Jo’s plans for the future, the ending is quite fitting for a play describing a working-class life in Salford. It shows an insight into life in the 1950’s if you weren’t a nuclear family and if you were working-class. It shows that not everything can go the way you want it to.
Lawson’s A Taste of Honey is an incredible, captivating performance with an amazing, versatile set and pays good homage to Shelagh Delaney’s first play, especially as this play is performed 60 years after it originally premiered. The cast are gifted with the ability to pull their characters from one emotion to another with incredible realism.
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