Programme for A Taste of Honey at Wyndham's Theatre, 1959

Description

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 begins a relationship with black sailor Jimmy and gets pregnant while her mother is away with her lover, and then sets up home with her gay friend Geof, 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.
Published:
London
Publisher:  
Wyndham's Theatre
Created:
1959
Format:
Programme / Ephemera / Photograph / Image
Creator:
Wyndham's Theatre, Uncredited photographer
Usage terms

© Courtesy of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
YD.2004.a.7039

Full catalogue details

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Homosexuality, censorship and British drama during the 1950s and 1960s

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By the end of the 1950s, playwrights had gained new freedoms to represent homosexual characters and themes on the British stage. Greg Buzwell charts the impact of the Wolfenden Report and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey on the Lord Chamberlain’s strict censorship policy.

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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.

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Theme:
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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.

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