Shelagh Delaney and A Taste of Honey

November 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm (cinema, class, drama, Feminism, good people, humanism, Jim D, literature)

Shelagh Delany, playwright and writer, b 25 November 1939, d 20 November 2011

Shalagh Delany wrote A Taste of Honey when she was scarcely 18. It portrayed the life of a young working class Salford girl who becomes pregnant following a one-night stand with a black African seaman. Her best friend is a gay art student. It was, as you can probably guess, in start contrast to the sort of plays then being written by the likes of Terence Rattigan and Noel Coward. It was also a more profound and insightful play than John Osborne’s mannered Look Back in Anger of a couple of years earlier.

Delany never repeated the success of her first play, but it’s not entirely true or fair to describe her as a “one-hit wonder” (as does today’s Guardian in a headline that’s been removed from the online edition): her second play, The Lion in Love was actually not bad and she later went on to write the screen plays for Albert Finney’s extraodinary film Charlie Bubbles and Mike Newell’s Dance With A Stranger about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

Shelagh Delaney was a pioneer female working class playwright who dealt with real people and previously taboo subjects with warmth and compassion. Here’re Rita Tushingham and Murray Melvin in a scene from the 1961 film:

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