Reviewed by Jan Mellor
It was wonderful to experience such an iconic play in such an iconic theatre. The intimate surroundings and stage felt as if the play was being performed to an ‘invited crowd only’ such was the ambiance. The play started with the two principle players – the deranged mother Helen (played superbly by Sharon Byatt) and her equally deranged daughter Jo (played by the amazing Sophie Coward) walking via the audience onto the stage as they arrived at yet another hovel to be called ‘home’.
The story of a 40 something single mum and her teenage daughter and their battle to find a decent life in the slums of 1950’s working class Salford has thrilled audiences for over 60 years (the play opened in London on 27th May 1958) and the performances at the theatre this week here in Liverpool were here to mark this phenomenal success of A Taste of Honey that was written by Shelagh Delaney when she was only 18. The performance captured the love/hate relationship of mother and daughter superbly and each made the character so real that they were both loathed and pitied in equal measure. The Daniel Taylor production showing the squalid surroundings, the alcoholism, the neglect and the torment experienced by this ‘family’ brought this dysfunctional era to the stage with ease. When Peter turns up the anguish that Jo feels is tangible and felt by all who watched. So, as Jo sneaks off to meet her sailor friend (played wonderfully y Jason Ricketts), we all rooted for her to find happiness, respect – love. Sadly, as her mother giddily rushes off to marry the creepy Peter (played splendidly by Chris Pybus) she is left to fend for herself and dwell in the hovel alone.
Thankfully Jo meets up with a friend Geoff (played by the excellent James Templeton) who as someone who is gay is no threat to Jo and treats her with fondness and shows that he truly cares. This is even more fitting since Jo is now pregnant with her sailor-boy’s child and the two agree to live together in harmony. As always however, Jo’s mother has ideas to spoil this harmony and she ends up splitting from Peter and returning home to ‘mother’ her pregnant daughter and dis-home the bereft Geoff.
The performance was spell-bounding. I sat in awe of the talent on stage and found it difficult to focus on my review as I sat transfixed. The cast were amazing, they brought a rawness to the stage that equalled (if not bettered) the infamous performances of Rita Tushingham, Dora Brian and Murray Melvin (who achieved Baftas for their portrayed of this play in their 1960 film). This is a must-see for those that love the film and play, those that want to experience true drama in an astounding theatre and those that want to get up and personal with amazing and remarkable actors.
This was an exceptional play and Sophie Coward – who played Jo – gave the performance of her life – Outstanding, (no wonder she had tears as she closed the scene). One of the best performances I have ever seen.
A stunning performance!
Tickets cost from £16 (booking fees may apply).
A Taste of Honey is at the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool from 9-13 October 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 888 4411.
Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ | 0844 888 4411