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A Taste Of Honey (Tour - Salford)

Shelagh Delaney's classic play is given respect, pace and perfect performances in this Hull Truck production.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rebecca Ryan and Julie Riley in A Taste Of Honey
© Hull Truck Theatre and Derby Theatre

Shelagh Delaney's A Taste Of Honey is staged regularly and not always delivered with as much panache as Hull Truck and Derby Theatre's new production. Often the lead character Jo becomes a mouth piece for Delaney's politics and very little else, so she never feels real. But here, due to Mark Babych's refreshingly original direction and Rebecca Ryan's vibrant performance, you leave the play - understanding the material fully and what motivates the characters.

Jo (Ryan) lives with her mother Helen (Julie Riley) and leads a pretty dull life - constantly looking out for her mum, moving house when her mother gets fed up and watching a conveyor belt of men come in and out of her life.

The lack of a role model means her life is predetermined, she falls pregnant and announces to her mother: "The baby's black." She meets a lad called Geoff - also struggling with his identity.

As a play, although parts of it seem dated - it's rare to see so many issues tackled head on. Single motherhood, poverty, homosexuality, race, the struggles of the working classes are all covered here and thanks to the humourous performances, it never feels like you are listening to a drum being banged.

Rebecca Ryan is completely at home on stage; she handles Delaney's wordy script with ease - delivering humour, poignancy and charm in equal measures. Julie Riley goes beyond the monster that you are so often associate with Helen and her chemistry with Ryan is a joy to behold.

Lekan Lawal's Jimmie is selfish and driven - you can tell he is passing through, Christopher Hancock's Geoff is delightful and James Weaver steals many scenes as the boyfriend with an eye patch - Peter.

Even though A Taste of Honey is a regular in the regions and beyond, I have never seen it handled with such respect and authority as it has been here. Babych understands the material and finds aspects in all of the characters which are likeable. This means that they come to life and the audience likes them, too.

Beautifully performed, featuring live music to illuminate the characters' aspirations and dreams - accentuated by Hayley Grindle's dank and dirty set design which provides the wake up call that a change is not gonna come.

This bitter-sweet tale is well worth a visit even if you know the play well, as in the capable hands of Hull Truck Theatre and Derby Theatre, it's fresh and new.

A Taste of Honey is at the Lowry until 14 June.