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A Taste of Honey, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

FROM the opening bars of Over The Rainbow played on a lone trumpet, it's clear we're in Coronation Street country in Tony Cownie's revival of Shelagh Delaney's neglected back-street classic.

History has lumped Delaney's boisterous yarn concerning clever clogs teenage school-girl Jo and her extended dysfunctional family in with the kitchen-sink social-realist set by way of Tony Richardson's big-screen version. In truth, it is more playful than that, both in its writing and playing style.

If anything, the straight-to-audience asides need accentuated more on Janet Bird's revolving boarding house set, as if the characters are doing a turn in the local social club. Delaney's writing is peppered throughout with enough acerbic bon mots and witheringly dry put-downs to resemble a series of heightened routines played to the max by Rebecca Ryan's stern-faced Jo and Lucy Black as her bottled-blonde mother, Helen.

Helen is a terminal survivor living on her faded looks with a succession of cash-flashing fancy-men, the latest of which comes in the form of Keith Fleming's eye-patched big-mouth, Peter. Jo's escape comes through a street-smart precociousness and a blossoming artistic temperament nipped cruelly in the bud when she falls pregnant by Adrian Decosta's black sailor, and sets up a home of sorts with Charlie Ryan's gay art student, Geoffrey.

It's hard to convey just how shocking all this was back in 1958, and the play is crying out for a radical re-invention. This isn't it, but through a winning set of performances, it remains a loving depiction of a play that paved the cobbled way for a grittier, wittier form of play for today.


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