When Shelagh Delaney began working on A Taste of Honey, she intended it to be a novel; but instead, it became a very famous stroy, Delaney was disgusted at was being shown in the plays currently being produced for the stage and decided to rework her novel into a play. It took her two weeks. A Taste of Honey opened at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in London on May 27, 1958. On February 10, 1959, Delaney’s play moved to Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End, and on October 4, 1960, the play opened on Broadway at New York City’s Lyceum Theatre. Delaney’s play opened to mixed reviews. In many cases, her characters were praised for their honest, realistic voices. The play was also singled out for its accurate depictions of working class lives.
There was also concern that too much praise for the play’s nineteen-year-old author would make it difficult for her to ever create another hit play, the theory being that early success might prove so intimidating that she could never live up to her first accomplishment. In a sense, this is what happened, since Delaney never wrote another play that achieved the success of A Taste of Honey. However, this first play did earn several awards, including the Charles Henry Foyle New Play award in 1958 and the New York Drama Critics Award in 1961. The film version won the British Academy Award for best picture in 1961 and a best supporting actress award for Dora Bryan.
The title of the play is very important because Honey is sweet and it is about how everybody needs a bit of sweetness in their lives. During the 1950’s people paid more attention to their families and neighbours, but in comparison to the 21st Century nobody has time to interfere in other people’s lives because they don’t have enough time to deal with their problems of their own. Nowadays people like that are nosey and interfering busybodies. It is also easy to be ‘anonymous’ and for people not to take any notice of you. When Shelagh Delaney wrote the play, her intentions were to express how she felt towards those topics raised in the pla. Delaney was not predjudiced but she wanted to put her veiws across, she wanted to change the audiences’ mind and bring them to the attention of the broader range of people that lived in their community.
When the play was viewed by the people in the 1950’s it shocked them all. When people nomally went to the theatre to watch plays they expected to see a married couple where one of the partners where having an affair, so you could imagine how seeing a play about the lives of the poor people, black people, gay people, single parents, bastards, jews, irish people, women who want a good time, prostitutes, tramps,asian people gypy’s and the list continues. This play really shocked the theatrical world and caused a scandal, because of what it showed. The play was set just after World War II, in the early 1950’s, when people when people were still rationing.
The rich, high class and middle class audience only ever saw day-to-day problems in a theatre, they always tried to cover up the predjudice and they thought if they pretend that they never hear or see it then it won’t affect them and it would be kept in the back of their mind.
During the 1950’s, life was hard, the war had ended in 1945 , but it had taken the country a long time to recover from the war. Most people were still poor and they lived in conditions known as slums.
The audience feels sorry for Jo because Jo is part of a single parent family, her mum neglects her and she has no time in her life for Jo. Helen spends most of her spare time chsing after men and ‘tarting herself up’ then going out till the early hours and singing and being the life and soul of the party. Helen is a very confident and has a bold personality, she is always looking for a good time and she only looks out for herslef. Jo is a bit of a rebel at school and this is only because and this is only because nobody is paying her any attention at home therefore she craves for the attention elsewhere. Jo cares about people’s feelings. Jo is very jealous of her mum because Jo doesn’t have anyone else in her life except her mum. Helen is always showing her ‘affection’ to other men and never towards Jo, she was very upset about this. In those days Jo would have been terribly bullied by fellow class members because there parents would comment on Jo and Helen’s homelife and the children would come in and tell all of it to Jo.
Jo continuously made snide remarks to her mum and her mum did the same for her, but this was the only way they both got along with each other.
As a mother Helen has never fullfilled her duties as she hardly had the time of day for Jo. Helen is the mother figure of the play, and she is presented as an awful mother who thinks only of her own pleasure. She doesn’t care about her child and doesn’t act as a real mother to her. However there is also a focus on what mothers “should” be, so one could say that Helen is presented very badly, but the need for a mother and the importance of mothering in general is emphasized in the work. Helen and Jo are very dependant on each other that is the main reason why they argue so much it is because they do, deeply love each other, but they don’t show it as you would see normally, in a mother and daughter relationship, this is the way they show their love for each other. They have a love/hate relationship, just like everyone really but with their relationship but as the audience are observing the hate side of the relation.
After analysing the play the audience give their sympathy to Jo She gets no attention off of her mother whatsoever. She spends all of her time moving house just as they properly settle in because her mum never could afford to pay the rent so they would always have to vacate the premises as soon as possible. Although they continuously move flats Jo never moves schools and has to walk the extra distance to her school and in those days it costed too much to travel by public transport.
In the opening line of the play, Helen says, “Well! This is the Place.” This, along with Jo’s reply, “And I don’t like it.” spells out a present and past situation existing between them. It tells us there has been no communication about the place in which they are both going to live. Jo has obviously never seen it before, and has been given no choice. Helen goes on to clarify even further that her own choices are made without any mutual agreement between herself and her daughter. She says, “When I find somewhere for us to live I have to consider something far more important than your feelings … the rent. It’s all I can afford.”
Jo’s biggest problem in life is lonliness and you are forced to feel sorry for her. Jo has seeked for affection from a very young age and then she finds it twice. Once off Jimmy, a black sailor, and the second off Geoff her gay flatmate.
Shelagh Delaney used a variety of languages for each character they have their own individual use of language. Jo’s language is full of hurt and sorrow and this is because of all the hurt she is going through she can’t show anyone how she feels so she keeps it all bottled inside her and tries to let it out when she has her arguements with her mum.
Helen’s language shows how she has no care in the world.
The way in which Jo communicates to and about people compared to the way in which she communicates with her own mother they have no respect for each other and argue continuously, in comparison to the way they talk to others and then talk to one another is like they have a Jackel and Hyde character.They both are so alike that is the reason why their personalities clash and hence the arguements.
They keep putting each other down at any given oppertunity. Jo does try to patch up their relationship but Helen doesn’t seem to care which really hurts Jo and yet she can’t tell anyone or do anything about it. Helen treats her daughter as someone she doesn’t really want in her life. There are exceptions to this, but it is a prevailing attitude. It is particularly shown when Helen goes on her honeymoon. Jo expressed her need to be cared for, or perhaps her desire to be wanted and included in her mother’s life when she says to Peter, “…. What are you going to do about me Peter? The snotty nosed daughter? Don’t you think I’m a bit young to be left like this on my own while you flit off with my old woman?” Helen’s response is, “We can’t take her with us. We will be, if you’ll not take exception to the phrase, on our honeymoon.”
This behaviour is then continued by not including Jo in Helen’s marriage ceremony. There is no attempt at communication about Jo’s welfare or needs at this time, and Helen leaves for her wedding with the words, “I’ll be seeing you. Hey! If he doesn’t show up I’ll be back.” In fact Helen doesn’t come back for months, leaving Jo to her own devices to survive.
These interactions already quoted highlight something else that, although a quiet theme in the drama, nevertheless remains constantly in the background. The characters all have a tendency to treat each other as if they have no personal or social links. Our social existence arises from an obvious web of interconnections. Few of us have made our own shoes, woven the material for our clothes, worked at generating the power for the light and heat in our houses, or grown our own food.
Many or most of the advantages in our life come to us out of our relationship either with other individuals, or from the collective effort of groups of people. Obviously many of the ills arise in the same way, but in the play there is a great one-sidedness toward alienation from other individuals or ‘society’ in such forms as work or education. Instead there is a constant reiteration of the attitude of not needing each other. This has already been shown in the relationship between Jo and Helen, but is particularly dramatised in other parts of the play. Helen and Jo are both firey independant women and they are both very independant as their language shows the audience how they keep on arguement going with each other.
Jo has seeked for love and affection her entire life but became disheartened when she never found it then someone came into her life and paid her some attention, which she liked this and she thought it was something special but little did she know once Jimmy, the black sailor, had sex with her he just ran away because he wasn’t intersted in Jo at all he just wanted sex and once he got it he left that is why Helen always waits and untill she thinks that the time is right then she will sleep with the guy. Helen has the upper hand on her relationships, but Jo is still young and inexperienced and she let Jimmy have the upper hand on their relationship Jo learns from this and becomes a stronger person. When Jimmy leaves he is unaware that he left Jo pregnant and by looks of things Jo is starting to follow in Helen’s footsteps. As this is exactly what Helen did around Jo’s age and ended up regreting it.
Although pregnant, Jo actually manages to remain in the flat, but this is with the help of Geoff. When Geof arrives, Jo has to almost beg him to stay with such phrases as, “Please stay Geoff, I’ll get those sheets and blankets.” Despite being homeless, Geoff resists such offers, finding it very difficult to admit his own need, and is not open with Jo about what he has to offer.
Geoff and Jo end up having a loving and caring relationship, they both look out for one another and they act a bit like brother and sister. at fist Jo was always curious about Geoff’sexuality she would ask questions such as “What is it like to be gay?” and “What do you do?” But they finally had a mutual understanding between each other he ended up looking out for her every need they did up their flat and made it into a home. Having Geoff playing the part as an older brother was new for Jo because she was not used to having someone looking out for her. Geoff and Jo had a lot of respect for each other.
Helen and Peter have a sexual relationship with each other. Helen plays games with Peter and she always keeps him on his toes and won’t give him what he wants because once men have what they want they up and go. She ends up getting him to propose to her and eventually get married. Helen is very experienced with men and she knows exactly what strings to pull and she tells them what they want to hear so that will always keep them interested in her.
Later in the play, when Helen has left Peter because of his affair with another woman, she does not admit her feelings for her husband, but instead, when Jo says, “I think you’re still in love with him.” responds by saying, “In love? Me? … You must be mad.”
Although Geoff is an extreme characterisation of not being able to stand up for what he wants or needs – allowing himself to be thrown out of the flat for instance – Helen and Jo also exhibit the same tendency. Helen does this by not fighting for her marriage, which although difficult has a lot of advantages, and such advantages could have been shared with her daughter and the coming baby. Jo does it by not expressing herself when her mother is obviously going to ‘leave her behind’ when she gets married. This ambiguity in relationship seems to be another sign of failing to recognise the social and personal web one is a part of. The failure leads to feelings of powerlessness and personal inadequacy. Geoff has in fact developed a working and caring relationship with Jo, and vice versa. He fails to see the place he fills in her life, so allows himself to be levered out of the house by Helen.
This alienation that is partly self-inflicted and partly inflicted by others, reaches its height in the scene in which Helen, talking about the food Geoff has brought in to the house, says, “You can bloody well take it with you, we don’t want it.” The following actions then dramatise the situation more:-
[GOEFFREY empties food from his pack on to the table while HELEN thrusts it back. HELEN finally throws the whole thing, pack and all, on the floor.]
Delaney presents the characters in the play as a contrast with each other and we are meant to sympathise with Jo and Geoff.
Delaney has put a contrast of people in the play like Helen and Jo, Peter and Geoff and Jo and Peter. Helen and Peter are so a like that they cause so much trouble and are not pleasent people therefore we would not sympathise with them but the way in which Jo behave towards each other and others they are nice, polite and genuine bpeople compared to helen and Peter. We are meant to sympathise with them because we feel that they have been treated unfairly by their own family and if their own family treats them in this way then society isn’t going to treat them any differently, and it wasn’t their fault but in those days people were so backward and they never moved on with time. We all give them our sympathy because how they have been treated as they were growing up, they both have had a tough childhood being picked on by everyone for being gay or being in a single parent family then as they both got older they were still being discriminated because Geoff lived on the streets before meeting Jo, as he was kicked out of his last place because the landlord was not happy of his sexuality.
People were saying that Jo ended up like her mother her life wasted at such a young age. At the end of the day Jo and Geoff are both still young children and they both get love from each other that they never got, to date. So they look for this love and they give it to each other in certain ways These two are still little children and are having to growup in the adult world. Having a full time job, paying rent and expenditures, having to save money and thinking about tomorrow. Jo got fed up of having to run away from their home when it came to paying the rent so she even paid the money in advance to stay in her flat, she vowed not to be like her mum. Society judged Jo they would say she is going to end up like her mum. They have both had a tough upbringing and therefore they know what the other person is going through so they both encourage each other, to be content with what they both have in life.