Five sweet reasons to see A Taste of Honey at Trafalgar Studios
Jodie Prenger tells us why she thinks you should book tickets before the show ends on 29 February
After 60 years away from the West End, Shelagh Delaney's seminal play returns in a revival of Bijan Sheibani's 2014 National Theatre production, this time starring the inimitable Jodie Prenger as Helen.
We couldn't be more excited that one of our favourite stars (and recently announced 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards host) is dipping her toes back into the West End – so we thought we'd ask her a little bit about why she thinks you can't miss this 'honey-sweet' production.
1. It's a classic play with a fresh female voice
Shelagh Delaney's play about life in 1950s Salford was written when she was just 19 years old. Shelagh, who claimed never to have seen a piece of theatre before, was taken to see a Terence Rattigan play at Manchester Opera House, which inspired her to give playwriting a go.
She wanted to represent the real lives she observed every day in her home town and sent her draft script to Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Workshop, based at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. The play went on to have a West End run, a Broadway transfer which featured Angela Lansbury and Joan Plowright in the lead roles, and was made into the BAFTA-winning 1961 film starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryan.
A Taste of Honey at Trafalgar Studios marks the first time the play has returned to the West End in 60 years – it's a piece of landmark theatre history that still speaks to audiences today. Why not take a look at the trailer if you need more convincing:
2. The live jazz music
It was Shelagh Delaney's vision to have a live jazz trio in the original production, so music director and composer Benjamin Kwasi Burrell used his wonderful talent to thread music through this masterpiece. Bijan Sheibani's production restores music to the heart of the play for the first time with the Taste of Honey trio on-stage throughout, playing spine-tingling music inspired by blues, jazz, soul and funk – and a few recognisable numbers too!
3. Hear the cast singing up close and personal
It's been simply lovely that over the years I've been part of so many musicals such as Oliver!, Les Misérables and Tell Me on a Sunday to name a few. So when I heard that they were going to add music into the production, it was rather exciting. Alongside the jazz musicians, you can hear me and my honey-voiced cast mates sing a few numbers throughout the show.
Feedback from audiences has been wonderful. If I had a penny for every time we've heard "love the music", I'd be sat in the Bahamas sipping a piña colada. Don't worry – you're all invited!
For a taster, watch me and the band perform "A Good Man is Hard to Find" from the show:
4. It's surprisingly funny
A play about a mother and daughter living on the edge doesn't necessarily sound like a barrel of laughs... You're wrong! The dialogue is razor sharp and pitch perfect. It's full of that warm northern humour – even in your darkest days, you can make light of it. And the amazing chemistry between Helen, who I play, and Jo (Gemma Dobson) means you come away having belly-laughed just as much as you (might have) cried.
5. The pedigree of creatives
Director Bijan Sheibani and designer Hildegard Bechtler have been a dream to work with and are two of the most exciting names in theatre right now. Sheibani's most recent credits include his debut play The Arrival at the Bush Theatre, and the critically-acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles.
Bechtler has designed award-winning sets for The Oresteia and Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre, and more recently the luscious set for the National Theatre's Anthony and Cleopatra. A Taste of Honey is a chance to see two masters of their craft work on a classic and important play.
What's more – you can save up to 49% on tickets right up until the end of the run. So book now!