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a taste of honey @ belvoir street theatre

In A TASTE OF HONEY it is the 1950s, Jo is in her teens, pregnant, and on her own since her African boyfriend went back to sea. But she’s always had to find her own way in her working-class neighbourhood: Dad never existed, and Mum – well, Mum has run away from home to shack up with a car salesman. Jo meets art student Geoff; he’s got nowhere to go since his landlady threw him out for being gay. Together they set up an unconventional, but happy, family – until Jo’s mother, Helen, comes crashing back to destroy their sweet little life.

This current play at Belvoir Street is a 60th anniversary  production of this classic British play. Delagney’s play was ahead of its time with its portrayal of strong working class female characters.

Eamon Flack has wisely kept the play in its original time period  with a great set and costume design by Mel Page. The  set comprised a living room, bedroom with a curtain to separate, and a kitchen a little hidden from view. The set is closed off with a ‘perimeter’ around  which the characters use as the streetscape outside the home.

Troubled mother and daughter relationships have been the source of many plays. Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane for one comes to mind.  The relationship between Helen and Jo is  well explored during the play. Jo needs call her mother mum, it is always Helen. Their relationship is tense, distant and unhealthy.

Genevieve Lemon brilliantly plays the steamroller, blowsy, overblown, narcissistic Helen whose bullish presence tends to knock out everything in her way.  Taylor Ferguson  is great as the daughter who has to contend with a very wilful mother who  deserts her whenever she likes, and goes off with her new man, one eyed drunkard Peter, played with relish by Josh McConville.

Tom Anson Mesker gives an excellent performance as the gentle but loving Geoffrey. Jo and Geoffrey, both outsiders, form a close and tender bond which the mother subverts. Geoffrey isn’t able to stand up to Helen’s forcefulness.

Thuso Lekwape plays Jimmy the full of life coloured boy who has the romance with Jo which sees her get pregnant.  We first see them coming home from the pub, dancing down the street.

Eamon Flack’s direction is assured, sensitive and the scenes build on each other well. Stefan Gregory’s soundscape is exceptional, tying in so well, and adding impact to the action.

The play’s themes are as relevant as ever. The world that it portrays is dark – single parent families, interracial relationships, different sexual orientations,. teen pregnancies- with plenty of touches of humour, even pathos, and the vibrancy of the performances ensuring that the experience isn’t too heavy.

A favourite scene with a lighter touch has Jo and Geoffrey bunking down separately for their first night together and Jo just tests Geoffrey as to whether there might be any action and Geoffrey makes it clear that nothing is going to be happening.

Highly recommended, Shelagh Delaney’s A TASTE OF HONEY is playing the upstairs Theatre at Belvoir Street until the 19th August 2018.



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