This is a programme from the West End production of A Taste of Honey which transferred to Wyndham’s Theatre in February 1959. The first production of the play at Theatre Royal Stratford East had exceeded all expectations, playing to packed audiences and boosting box office takings for the struggling theatre which had been on the verge of closure. It was the first time a play had transferred to the West End from Littlewood’s radical Theatre Workshop, and it retained its original cast following the transfer.
What was the West End’s reaction to A Taste of Honey?
Delaney’s story of teenager Jo, who gets pregnant by her black boyfriend while her neglectful mother is away with her lover, and then sets up home with her gay friend, was a hit in the West End, winning Delaney the Charles Henry Foyle award for best new play. A further transfer to the Criterion Theatre followed and, in 1960, a production on Broadway starring Joan Plowright as Jo and Angela Lansbury as Helen.
The excitement around Delaney’s play was part of a trend. Around the late 1950s and early 1960s, English theatre was undergoing a transformation with new plays, actors and directors coming to the fore. With the ‘New Wave’ of dramatists, which included writers such as John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Brendan Behan and Arnold Wesker, came a change in audience taste. These plays reflected the lives of real working-class people in a form of social realism not seen in English theatre before. Often referred to as ‘kitchen sink drama’, this form of drama was to cross over into film and television.
- Full title:
- A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney. London : Wyndham Theatres Ltd., 1959.
- Wyndham's Theatre
- Programme / Ephemera / Photograph / Image
- Wyndham's Theatre , uncredited photographer
- Usage terms:
© Courtesy of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
- Held by:
- British Library
- Article by:
- Louise Kimpton Nye
- 20th-century theatre
That Joan Littlewood cut down the script of A Taste of Honey and added her own theatrical flavour is well-known. Louise Kimpton Nye takes a look at Shelagh Delaney’s original manuscript and explores some of its themes.
- Article by:
- Jeanette Winterson
- Gender and sexuality, Art, music and popular culture, 20th-century theatre, Exploring identity
Jeanette Winterson describes how Shelagh Delaney's imagination, humour and self-belief helped her to make a place for herself in the male-dominated world of 1950s and 1960s British theatre and become the country's first working-class female playwright.
- Article by:
- Selina Todd
- Gender and sexuality, Art, music and popular culture, Exploring identity, 20th-century theatre
Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey when she was only 19. Selina Todd explains how it came to be performed by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and what was so original about its portrayal of a working-class mother and daughter.