A Taste of Honey - Curve Review.

Shelagh Delaney's career-defining ground-breaking play arrives at Curve as part of it's UK tour.
Gemma Dobson (Jo) and Jodie Prenger (Helen). Photo by. Marc Brenner
The play, set in post-war Salford, is a gripping depiction of working-class life and the relationship of a mother and daughter. Fiesty teenager Jo and her mother, Helen, live together in a small basic flat. When Helen runs off with a car salesman, Jo takes up with a Navy sailor Jimmy, who promises to marry her before he heads for the seas and gets her pregnant. Art student Geoffrey moves in and takes on the role of a surrogate parent until he mistakenly sends for Helen and their unconventional world unravels.

Bijan Sheibani's production is tremendous and moves at a great pace. The second act does feel the stronger of the two acts, much of that is down to Geoffrey's introduction. It's a tremendous decision to have an on-stage band. The three musicians, David O'Brien (musical director and keys), George Bird (drums) and Alex Davis (double bass) add a great atmosphere. Intersecting scenes with musical numbers is a clever move that really works.

Hildegard Bechtler's design fills the vast Curve stage well. Mostly set inside the same flat, it's quite bleak and very timely for the production. A lot of the dialogue scenes take place on a sofa which is at centre stage, unfortunately due to the Curve's new auditorium layout, I couldn't always see what was happening.

Gemma Dobson (Jo) and Stuart Thompson (Geoffrey). Photo by Marc Brenner.
Jodie Prenger is on top form as Helen. She really is extraordinary to watch. She fizzes with confidence. An actress right at the top of her game. Jodie is matched by Gemma Dobson who too is brilliant at Jo. She's more emotionally affecting especially as she grows with frustration at her mother's neglect. Together they offer the play's best moments and are perfectly cast.

There are strong supporting performances. Stuart Thompson makes his professional theatre debut in the role of Geoffrey. Adding much-needed calm he is instantly likeable. Tom Varey is commanding as Peter, he is darkly controlling of those around him, especially Helen. Durone Stokes is charming as Jimmie, the relationship with Jo is really believable and tugs at the audience's heartstrings.

Shelagh Delaney wrote this play when she was only 19 during the 1950s. It's a punchy and witty script. As relevant now as it ever has been. A resounding magnifying glass of vulnerability and strengths of the female spirit in a deprived world. This is certainly a delicious and enjoyable taste of honey.

Rating - ★★★★ - superbly written and acted performance. An excellent modern take on a classic play.

A Taste of Honey plays at Curve until Saturday 26th October - for tickets visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/a-taste-of-honey. The production visits Bath, Wolverhampton and Norwich before running at London's Trafalgar Studios from December 5th. For more information visit https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/a-taste-of-honey-uk-tour

Gemma Dobson (Jo), Tom Varey (Peter) and Jodie Prenger (Helen). Photo by Marc Brenner

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