A Taste of Honey review at Barn Theatre

PUBLISHED: 22:26 09 October 2013 | UPDATED: 22:29 09 October 2013

Kieron Mieres as Jimmy and Lauren Davidson as Jo in A Taste of Honey at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

Kieron Mieres as Jimmy and Lauren Davidson as Jo in A Taste of Honey at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

John Davies

IT’S astonishing to think that A Taste of Honey first hit the stage more than 50 years ago.

Jane Wing as Helen, Lauren Davidson as Jo, and Andy Hill as Peter in A Taste of Honey at the Barn TheatreJane Wing as Helen, Lauren Davidson as Jo, and Andy Hill as Peter in A Taste of Honey at the Barn Theatre

Author Shelagh Delaney, only 18 at the time she wrote it, was one of that group of young playwrights who revolutionised British theatre in the late 50s and early 60s, introducing a much more realistic style of dialogue, and most importantly dealing seriously for the first time with ordinary working class people.

It’s no surprise that the play no longer strikes us as revolutionary as it did in 1959, but I was pleased to find from the excellent production at the Barn Theatre, in Welwyn Garden City, that it can still move us and make us laugh, and that the characters are as recognisably real today as they were back then.

We can certainly find their modern counterparts anywhere in the country.

Set in Salford, it centres on the relationship between schoolgirl Jo and her feckless mother Helen, a near alcoholic who doesn’t think twice about deserting her daughter to run off and marry a younger man, the rich and equally drunken Peter.

Lauren Davidson and Jane Wing as Jo and Helen in A Taste of Honey at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityLauren Davidson and Jane Wing as Jo and Helen in A Taste of Honey at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

The success of this production depends more than anything else on really fine ensemble acting.

The reality of the relationships between the characters is striking, and one can sense that it’s based on the evident chemistry existing between the actors.

Jo, the typical teenager who has more reason than most to be stroppy, was played with charm and conviction by Lauren Davidson.

I particularly liked the distinction she showed in the different relationships with her sailor lover Jimmy, played by Kieron Mieres, and the gay student Geoff, who later befriends and looks after her, played with great tact and sensitivity by Harry Harding.

Kieron and Harry are newcomers to the Barn stage, both of them good examples of our local theatre’s astonishing ability to attract new and talented actors.

The grown ups, if one can fairly call them that, were played by Andy Hill as the drunken Peter, who skilfully balanced the noisy bonhomie of his first appearance with a real nastiness at the end, and Jane Wing as Helen.

Were it not for the strength of the other performances I’d be tempted to say she stole the show.

This was a bravura depiction of a comic monster, a wholly irresponsible woman who is simultaneously both detestable and almost impossible not to like.

A wonderfully dingy set and atmospheric lighting added greatly to the impact of the play, directed by Jon Brown, no newcomer to the Barn as an actor, but now making a most successful debut there as director.


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