Home   What's On   News   Article

A Taste of Honey review at The Marlowe theatre in Canterbury

ByRebecca Tuffin

Many productions claim to be an honest portrayal of the working class but A Taste of Honey delves much deeper than just exploring the surface issues.

In this play, written by Shelagh Delaney at just 19, the brutal, gritty and at times humorous truth of life as a working class woman in the 1950s is laid bare for all to see.

Jodie Prenger as Helen
Jodie Prenger as Helen

Before I had even sat down in the Marlowe Theatre, it already felt a bit like an old backstreet bar, with a scruffily-dressed jazz trio on the a double bass, piano and drums.

Smoke began filling the stage and Jodie Prenger, who plays Helen, was stood leaning on the piano, puffing on a cigarette, slowing scanning the audience.

We quickly grew silent and all focus was on her.

Having been a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's I'd Do Anything, for which Ms Prenger won the chance to perform as Nancy in the West End production of Oliver, I was very much looking forward to seeing her perform.

And she did not disappoint.

Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey when she was 19
Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey when she was 19

It's clear from the beginning that the character of Helen isn't really a mother - more of a friend, and an unreliable, selfish one at that.

Despite this, and the fact she lives in a dingy old flat in Salford with a leaky ceiling and view of the town slaughterhouse, Helen makes sure she always looks great and doesn't let anyone put her down.

Her 17-year-old daughter, Jo, played by Gemma Dobson, is equally as fiery and upfront.

She rarely holds back on telling her mother exactly what she thinks about the state of the flat and the upbringing she's received.

This doesn't faze Helen, who sits on the scraggy yellow sofa, puffing away despite complaining she has a cold - giving back as much as she gets.

Stuart Thompson as Geoffrey and Gemma Dobson as Jo
Stuart Thompson as Geoffrey and Gemma Dobson as Jo

But despite their utter disapproval of one another, the pair are in fact quite similar. They are both brash, outspoken and have a burning desire to be known by the world.

Their complete lack of any filter made me laugh out loud at times. I love the way Jo would say things like 'Do you fancy me? or 'Hello daddy' with such brazen, witty sarcasm.

Men have a significant role in the play, but both Helen and Jo seem to have bad luck when it comes to romance.

Helen's latest fancy man is unsavoury and unkind but rich, however Jo's is kind and adoring but alas, his promises are empty and he desserts her pregnant with his child.

The only male character presented in a positive light is Geoffrey, played by Stuart Thompson, Jo's homosexual friend.

Gemma Dobson as Jo and Jodie Prenger as Helen
Gemma Dobson as Jo and Jodie Prenger as Helen

But despite the grime, dirt and lack of romantic success, both women seem to get on with life, which I feel is reflective of the strength and will to power through installed in working class women of the era.

The play's ending was rather abrupt and left me wondering what happened next - Jo, now heavily pregnant, almost throws herself out the window during an argument, Geoffrey and Helen leave, and Jo is left sat alone, reciting a dreamy nursery rhyme.

On the drive home I thought to myself: 'What was the meaning? What was the point Delaney was trying to make?' I wasn't quite sure.

However, I was certain at least that I'd got great enjoyment out of watching it.

The next morning I realised perhaps it doesn't have to have a meaning for me. We are so used to a beginning, middle, end structure that sometimes we forget we can just observe and take whatever we choose from a performance.

So, for me, A Taste of Honey is but a mere expression of reality, much like if I was watching a couple go about their lives through their kitchen window - intriguing, amusing and fantastically real.

To find out what’s going on in the county and for all the latest entertainment news click here

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More