A Taste of Honey – reviews of kitchen-sink drama revival

Feb 24, 2014

Shelagh Delaney's 1958 drama influenced a generation and stills feels fresh and relevant today

What you need to know

A revival of Shelagh Delaney's ground-breaking 1958 drama A Taste of Honey has opened at the National Theatre, London. The play, written when Delaney was only 19, became a classic example of gritty British "kitchen-sink drama", and was later adapted into an award-winning film.

It tells the story of teenager Jo, who is neglected by her mother Helen, and falls pregnant to a sailor. Jo is befriended by a gay student Geoff, who offers to take care of her, but when her mother reappears their new-found happiness begins to unravel. 

Bijan Sheibani directs Lesley Sharp as Helen, Kate O'Flynn as Jo, and Harry Hepple as Geoff. Runs until 11 May.

What the critics like

This amusing, touching revival still feels modern today, motored by whipsmart dialogue and "an outstanding mother-and-daughter double act", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. This is social realism with a spring in its step and a sharp eye for the strange hues of love, life and getting by.

This revival of A Taste of Honey "still emerges as fresh and startlingly observant", says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. And the performances are tremendous, from Sharp's volatile Helen, to O'Flynn's defiant and vulnerable Jo, and Hepple's quietly watchful Geoffrey.

The revival catches Delaney's mix of sharply observed reality and self-conscious theatricality, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. "It is a tough, tenacious play with an emotional bite that proves it is more than raucous comedy."

What they don't like

Sheibani's revival, though a solid piece of stagecraft, "isn't as enjoyable as the film", says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. The vitality of the film is preferable to this somewhat leaden, it's-grim-up-North production. 

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