The production takes us on a journey of Jo's life. Jo (Taylor Ferguson) is in her teens and falls pregnant with her African boyfriend, Jimmie (Thuso Lekwape). He goes back to sea and Jo is left all alone. But she has always found her way in her working-class neighbourhood. Dad never existed and Mum, well her mother, Helen (Genevieve Lemon), ran away from home to shack up with a car salesman, Peter (Josh McConville).
Jo meets art student Geoffrey (Tom Anson Mesker) at a funfair; he has nowhere to go since his landlady threw him out for being gay. They set up an unconventional family - until Jo's mother returns crashing back into their sweet little life.
Helen is a good-time woman. She is not bothered about doing the right thing as a mother and doesn't have the strongest maternal instincts. Helen abandons her daughter and flits off to marry Peter (who she just met) to live the hedonistic life-style with him.
After Jo strikes up a sexual relationship with Jimmie, a black sailor who leaves her pregnant, she must make do on her own in her ramshackle little flat as she settles into a domestic routine with Geoff. Both Jo and Geoff find something they desperately need in one another as Jo's pregnancy progresses. She is frustrated with Helen's lack of any kind of maternal streak but is determined to succeed. Jo finds respite from her mother - first with Jimmie, then a very different kind of love with Geoffrey.
Helen and Jo's relationship is palpable, as is the way they have absorbed and been shaped by one another and when Jo discovers she is pregnant she struggles to know what motherhood might mean for her and she does not want to be the kind of mother Helen was. She begins to notice she is falling into similar patterns.
Despite the radical content, the play's narrative is fairly easy to follow and takes you on a whirlwind of emotion from tragic moments to bitingly funny laugh-out-loud moments. It is raw and filled with emotion and relatable scenes.
The play refuses to paint women as archetypes-instead they are genuinely knotty, complex, capricious and tough- and this is relatively unusual on the stage. It also showcases women following their sexual desire and casts no moral judgement upon them.
Overall, this 60-year-old play, Play A Taste of Honey, is above and beyond anything else really about two women; Helen and Jo. mother and daughter, growing up together, growing apart together, growing back together again, are at the heart of the play and this is what makes it a timeless piece.
The entire cast performed with such perfection and it was such a delight to watch. Genevieve Lemon offered a stellar performance. Taylor Ferguson as Jo gave a moving performance and was supported by Josh McConville, Thuso Lekwape and Tom Anson Mesker who were all uniformly brilliant; however the leading ladies absolutely stole this show!
Director Eamon Flack acknowledges a debt not only to British writer Shelagh Delaney, but also to Joan Littlewood, who championed the young writer. Delaney gave a voice to the female working class through her writing, while producer Littlewood herself challenged the traditional theatre orthodoxy.
The story behind A Taste of Honey is truly extraordinary. The writer, Shelagh Delaney grew up working class and she was surrounded by poverty. When she was 19-years-old she decided to try her hand at playwriting. According to her daughter, Delaney had just seen Waiting for Godot and believed there were no other voices that should be heard.
This resulted in the play to be an absolute smash, moving from the fringe venues to illustrious stages on the West End and Broadway; it was eventually turned into a BAFTA-winning film. It paints an extraordinary journey of life- how people are simply denied the space to live in society as they carve out their own lives and families as well as dealing with their own pain with strength and true grit.
This risky play was a total success. It featured humour, sadness, love, and the cultural specificities, poverty and it had moments of pure bliss. The choreography by Kate Champion presented some groovy 60s vibes in some scenes. From lighting to music, everything fitted in so well together, making this play a perfect performance.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the Box Office.