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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

A taste of honey Shelagh Delaney at the Royal exchange Review by Steve Griffiths

For those of us old enough to remember or live through the 1950s drab was the word that seemed to sum up the times. And with the production of a taste of honey you are back in drab times, Literally. The production smells drab; looks drab and ….

The basic story of a young woman in Salford – or anywhere in the desolate North -   living and procreating in a scrappy room. is all there. The careless mum: the warm-hearted gay man the devil may care lover (of the mum) all feature as in the original. But what has disappeared is the lived experience of the original audience. Which leaves a hollow shell. 

Rowan Robinson the young woman and her feckless mum, Jill Halfpenny make the most of the script. And the director, Emma Baggott, clearly knows and loves her Delaney. But the anger and emotion that would have been around at the time in the North is no longer there.  Discussing the social issues that were revolutionary at the time-abortion, sex with the same gender- have all been addressed by parliament. Which means that the writing has to be at the forefront of the play. And it’s a young person’s play with all the pros and cons. Take away the external anger and what is left?

Normally the stage designer is a little like the music creator for films; you only notice them when the action is poor. It may be significant that Peter Butler gets three pages in the programme to outline the efforts they made to get the real feel of the times. So, you get such questions as ‘How does Helen’s persona within the play inform her sartorial choices and does she leverage her attire to assert herself?’ I can’t believe this would have been a significant factor in the original production.

Given that the Exchange is getting back to its good old ways it’s entitled to occasional bumps in the road.  And it is a real play with a historic feel of a moment in local time. So see it for its social history if nothing else After all how many plays were written  about the real North?

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