Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey – Tony Richardson – An adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play: the humorous portrayal of a working class girl who lives with a homosexual male friend, after becoming pregnant with the child of a black sailor. For 1958, arriving alongside the ‘Angry Young Men’ movement in theatre, Delaney provided her own progressive perspective on social ‘restlessness’ explored, as ever, in the industrial inauguration of kitchen sink drama: the North of England. Set in Salford, much of A Taste of Honey’s reception was dictated through brash contextual condescension. Delaney was only 19 when she wrote it, consequently most reviews focused soley on her youth, her gender-and her working class ‘authenticity’. Thus a warped identity of Delaney obscured that of the play, substituting sincere critical appraisal for veiled sexism and socially patronizing voyeurism. Moving on from its existence as a play, Delaney worked with Tony Richardson in constructing the screenplay. The film carries the black and white adherence to social realism, characteristic to much of British New Wave cinema. It interestingly has a carnival scene which, similar to the sequence in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning introduces an interlude of more stylized aesthetics. In A Taste of Honey, Jo (the female protagonist, played memorably by Rita Tushingham) enters a hall of mirrors at the fair, a brilliantly realized moment of confused self analysis. It is a sequence that, in its implied departure from the every day realism of Salford existence, offers a telling indication of the more navel gazing subtext that runs beneath its robust realism. It is a compelling and tragic narrative, a daughter perhaps socially condemned to the same cyclical entrapment that her mother has so gracelessly inhabited (the social climbing, sex exploiting and deeply unreliable mother – ‘Helen’ – is portrayed excellently by Dora Bryan), which is approached with a genuine energy, one that avoids ever succumbing to the theatrical temptations of misery. Perhaps much of the play’s strength, and similarly the film’s, lies in the tension between a resounding positive humanism (in the character of Jo) and the disillusionment with a society that weathers such positivism. Class is a condemnation to be endured, while social mobility is to be gained only through the expense of morality.  7/10

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