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Theatre review - A Taste of Honey, The Lowry, Salford

PUBLISHED: 15:24 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:24 23 September 2019

Gemma Dobson (Jo), Tom Varey (Peter) and Jodie Prenger (Helen) in A Taste Of Honey at the Lowry in Salford (c) Marc Brenner

Gemma Dobson (Jo), Tom Varey (Peter) and Jodie Prenger (Helen) in A Taste Of Honey at the Lowry in Salford (c) Marc Brenner

Archant

Shelagh Delaney's commentary on the social state of Britain has more relevance than ever in today's climate.

You can never help but marvel at Shelagh Delaney's ability - at the age of just 19 - to compress so much about the social state of Britain into one play.

The fact that she created it in the 1950s, and that its themes of race, gender and class still bedevil us, means her problems remain our problems. A Taste Of Honey might already be regarded as a theatrical period piece but it still has all too much relevance to today.

The National Theatre bring their 2014 revival of the play, naturally enough, to Delaney's home town for the start of a UK tour and keep it infused with its original incidental jazz score, performed live on stage by a trio, kept discreetly to the sides of the staging.

Their presence also allows one or two performers to break into occasional songs from the period. But this remains a play with music, rather than any attempt to make it into musical theatre, and that's despite a musical trouper like Jodie Prenger leading the cast.

In the role of the blousy mother Helen she again further polishes her already-impressive acting CV, which comes complete with a natural gift for comedy. It may be a tyrannical role but has enough Northern wit and pathos to make it a fully-fledged character.

Opposite her Gemma Dobson is the teenage daughter Jo, the original Angry Young Person of her times, though fated to repeat many of the mistakes of her mother. As the young gay character Geoffrey, Stuart Thompson makes an impressive stage acting debut.

Delaney created two of contemporary theatre's strong woman characters and in their respective trials and tribulations you can easily trace the DNA of just about every TV soap opera since.

While this production tends to race the dialogue, sucking out too much of the oxygen needed around authentic Northern language, and Dobson's Jo is a rather one-note performance, the play will always remain an affecting and effective study of the unbridgeable gulf between dreams and reality.

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