Gemma Dobson, Jo; Tom Varey, Peter; Jodie Prenger, Helen in A Taste of Honey – Photo Marc Brenner
A TASTE OF HONEY – November 12-16, 2019
The National Theatre brings its production of A Taste of Honey, Shelagh Delaney’s remarkable taboo-breaking 1950s play, to Norwich Theatre Royal from November 12 to 16.
Directed by award-winning theatre and opera director Bijan Sheibani and designed by Olivier Award-winning Hildegard Bechtler, the play was first produced in the NT’s Lyttelton Theatre in 2014 when Lesley Sharp took the role of the lead character Helen.
Reconceived in an exciting new production which features a live onstage band, this iconic play will be touring nine venues across the country throughout the autumn with Jodie Prenger in the lead role.
Jodie is well-known to Norwich audiences for her portrayal of Shirley Valentine, in the play of the same name at the Theatre Royal in September 2017, and Kelly in Fat Friends in March 2018. She first came to public notice when she won the role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! through the BBC television series I’d Do Anything. She went on to tour the UK in Spamalot, Tell Me On A Sunday, Calamity Jane, Abigail’s Party, and the NT’s One Man, Two Guvnors in the West End and on tour. Her television roles include Years and Years, Citizen Khan, Wizards vs Aliens, Candy Cabs and Waterloo Road. She won the Theatregoers’ Choice Whats On Stage Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
She is joined by be Gemma Dobson as Jo, Durone Stokes as Jimmie, Stuart Thompson as Geoffrey, and Tom Varey as Peter; with understudies Liam Bessell, Katy Clayton, Claire Eden, and Marcel White.
A Taste of Honey was written by Shelagh Delaney when she was just nineteen. It offers an explosive celebration of the vulnerabilities and strengths of the female spirit in a deprived and restless world, set against a backdrop of working-class life in post-war Salford.
Questioning and commenting on class, race, gender and sexual orientation in mid-20th century Britain, it became known as a ‘kitchen sink’ drama, part of a genre revolutionising British theatre at the time.
The play focuses on a mother-daughter relationship. When Helen runs off with a car salesman, her feisty teenage daughter Jo takes up with Jimmie, a sailor who promises to marry her, before he heads for the seas leaving her pregnant and alone. Art student Geoff moves in and assumes the role of surrogate parent until, misguidedly, he sends for Helen and the unconventional setup all begins to unravel.
Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey, her first play, in ten days after seeing Rattigan’s Variation of a Theme in Manchester. She sent the script to Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and the play opened at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in 1958, before transferring in to the West End. It was made into a feature film in 1961 with Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan and Murray Melvin, and the Broadway transfer featured Joan Plowright and Angela Lansbury.
Its themes – families living in poverty on the margins of society, single parenthood and a mixed race relationship which was considered as controversial at that time – were judged as radical for the period in which the play was written but five decades later remain relevant today.
Shelagh Delaney’s daughter Charlotte Delaney, who lives in Suffolk, said it was “very much a working class play”. “Its values are based in working class values and the values of women’s liberation, I think, and people still talk about women in the same terms they talked about these two characters 50 years ago.”
Jodie Prenger’s work for the NT includes One Man, Two Guvnors for the NT in the West End; Nancy in Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane); Lady of the Lake in Spamalot (Playhouse Theatre and UK Tour); Calamity Jane in Calamity Jane (UK Tour); Tell Me on a Sunday (UK Tour); Miss Hannigan in Annie (New Theatre, Oxford); Shirley in Shirley Valentine (UK Tour); Kelly in Fat Friends The Musical (UK Tour) and Beverly in Abigail’s Party (UK tour). Television includes Years and Years, Citizen Khan, Wizards vs Aliens, Candy Cabs and Waterloo Road. She won the Theatregoers’ Choice Whats On Stage Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
Bijan Sheibani is an award winning theatre and opera director. His work for the National Theatre includes Barber Shop Chronicles, A Taste of Honey, Emil and the Detectives, The Kitchen, and Our Class (Olivier Nomination for Best Director). Other theatre includes Dance Nation and The House of Bernarda Alba (Almeida Theatre); Circle Mirror Transformation (Home, Manchester); The Brothers Size (Young Vic, Olivier Nomination); Giving (Hampstead Theatre); Moonlight (Donmar Warehouse); Gone Too Far (Royal Court Theatre, Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre). He was artistic director of Actors Touring Company from 2007 to 2010, and an associate director at the National Theatre from 2010 to 2015.
Hildegard Bechtler is an Olivier Award-winning theatre and opera designer whose designs for the NT include Consent, Sunset at the Villa Thalia, Waste, A Taste of Honey, Scenes from an Execution, After the Dance, Harper Regan, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, The Hothouse, Thérèse Raquin, Exiles, Primo, Iphigenia at Aulis, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, and King Lear. For the RSC she has designed The Crucible and Electra. In London’s West End her designs include Oresteia (also Almeida Theatre), Top Hat, Passion Play, Old Times, The Sunshine Boys, Arcadia, The Lady from Dubuque, By the Bog of Cats, The Master Builder, Footfalls, Hedda Gabler, The Misanthrope, The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, The Crucible. On Broadway she has designed Primo, Arcadia, and The Seagull.
Listing: A Taste of Honey, Tuesday 12 to Saturday 16 November. Eves 7.30pm. Thu & Sat matinee 2.30pm. Tickets £10-£33. Discounts for Friends, Over 60s, Under 18s, Groups and Schools. Captioned performance Thu 14 Nov 2.30pm. Audio-described and Signed performance Sat 16 Nov 2.30pm. For more info or to BOOK ONLINE www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk