Review: A Taste of Honey @ The Lowry, Salford

The National Theatre’s production of A Taste of Honey may have begun its UK tour at The Lowry Theatre in Salford, but the Salford it represents is a world away from the glitz and glamour of Media City.

The play, written by Shelagh Delaney when she was just 19, explores the struggles faced by working class people during the 1950s and touches on taboos surrounding race, sexuality and single motherhood.

Through an intelligent and witty script, Delaney authentically portrays lives that are full of bad decisions, or at times just bad luck, with a humour which adds a lightness to the events that unfold on stage.

Act One begins with single mother Helen, played brilliantly by Jodie Prenger, and her daughter Josephine as they move into their new home in Salford.

Gemma Dobson portrays Josephine as a moaning teenager who clearly hopes she can move onto better things, although at times her incessant whining is rather irritating.

As Helen and Josephine bicker over the grottiness of their residence, you can almost feel how cold and damp their flat is thanks to Hildegard Bechtler’s set design.

While Josephine dreams of moving out, Helen’s solution to the situation is to pour herself a drink (one of many during the play). Prenger’s Helen certainly stands out the most; she is fiery and feisty but extremely selfish, and spends more time wiggling her hips than talking to her daughter.

When Helen is a seduced by her former lover Peter, portrayed by Tom Varey as a character who tries to be charming yet comes across as repulsive, she abandons Josephine.

Refusing to be alone, Josephine falls in love with a visiting sailor, Jimmie, who she agrees to marry. Durone Stokes’ Jimmie is likeable and pleasant enough, until he sails away and leaves Josephine once more by herself.

The second act follows the characters as they deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Director Bijan Sheibani adds subtle touches which enrichen the production: a band plays on stage during transitions; understudies, dressed in 1950s costume, serve as stagehands during set changes and scenes are enhanced with the addition of a drumbeat in the background or the pluck of a double base.

A Taste of Honey is not an easy experience for the audience as you witness the characters struggling to cope in dire situations. However, Delaney’s writing serves as an antidote to this, leaving you laughing rather than crying.

*National Theatre’s A Taste of Honey is currently touring the U.K. You can buy tickets HERE. 

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