Saturday, January 4, 2020

Tastes of Honey

I noticed, and consequently read in the TLS (November 1, 2019) a review of Tastes of Honey, subtitled “The making of Shelagh Delaney and a cultural revolution.”  

“A fortnight ago I didn’t know the theatre existed”, Shelagh Delaney claimed when she sent her first play, A Taste of Honey, to the theatre director Joan Littlewood.  This was a lie.  But at just nineteen years old, Delaney – the daughter of a Salford bus driver – already had a pretty good idea about what the gatekeepers of the London arts scene wanted to hear. . . Delaney quite deliberately presented herself as ‘a naïve, northern ingenue’ – and the identity, though restrictive, struck.”  So begins the review by Anna Coatman of Selina Todd’s Tastes of Honey.

The idea that any “arts scene” has gatekeepers is off-putting, but Delaney apparently got to write what she wanted, made a lot of money, and just in  case A taste of Honey wasn’t quite all she wanted, she wrote other things, but nothing quite as popular, or, to take up Selina Todd’s primary interest, quite as revolutionary.  Delaney was a pioneer in the feminist movement.  “As a school girl, Delaney had told the (shocked) mother of a friend: ‘Oh, I would like to have a baby, but I wouldn’t like a husband, I don’t want to be married’.  As an adult, she would live by these words: in 1963 she discovered she was pregnant . . . and the following year she gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte, whom she brought up as a single parent. . . “Sadly, in 2004, the writer discovered a lump in her breast; and in 2011 she died at home, five days before her seventy-third birthday, holding her daughter’s hand.”

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