An on-stage Jazz Trio (Emma Correlle, Geoff Chalmers and Joann Kerrigan) lend an air of excitement to the opening of Sheffield Theatre's revival of Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey. Unfortunately, this is a theatricality missing from the kitchen-sink realism of the production as a whole. The songs that Delaney has curiously imbedded in her text - perhaps suggesting a Music Hall ambiance - have been subsumed almost apologetically into the narrative of Polly Findlay's production; the actors acknowledge the musicians rarely, and the audience never. The team work hard to create Delaney's world, but forget to invite us in.
Katie West certainly has the energy and intensity needed for the play's central character Jo; a tour de force part, never absent from the stage. Yet one comes to relish her rare quieter moments for the variety and respite they bring to the frantic pace and noise of the performance. Eva Pope provides a strong and striking counterpoint, as Jo's mother Helen, and Christopher Hancock is a breath of fresh air as the softer Geoffrey.
Soutra Gilmour's set design is functional, if uninspiring, but wobbles disconcertingly due to an unnecessary revolve. Her costumes, however, are memorable.
More than 50 years after its premiere, Delaney's play is still a remarkable piece of writing, not least in the way it stands as a document of its period, yet simultaneously has a strangely contemporary feel. But whilst Findlay's production is competent, it fails to explore all the theatrical possibilities the work presents.