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The recent death of Shelagh Delaney

The recent death of Shelagh Delaney  warrants some attention.

Delaney isn't a household name. Maybe, at most, she is known because she is some how associated with British alt rock group, The Smiths.

But she had little to do with music being  primarily a playwright and screen writer.

The Smiths adopted her sort of like an icon.

But in way of consequence, Delaney wrote her first play -- A Taste of Honey  -- when she was 18 and if you aint seen it -- at least in the form of Tony Richardson's excellent film version -- you are missing something from your existence.

Why? Because -- to put it simply: "the play's the thing".

A Taste of Honey back at its premier in 1958 -- that's way back in stodgy  1958! -- challenged accepted mores of  class, race, gender and sexual orientation. A poignant often frank play, it's kitchen sink realism captures a yearning and a protest that still reverberates today.

I was involved with a production of A Taste of Honey in 1967 at a Melbourne mental hospital. Fresh out of school,and only 18 myself, my university campus -- La Trobe -- abutted a swathe of psychiatric institutions. Being  dedicated thespians a gang of us partnered a few projects in the neighborhood. Among these was a production of the play by patients.

We helped out.

Imagine a one off performance in  a large sitting room -- the ward's day room -- for 30 residents by folk who's issues with existence paralleled those addressed in the play.

It was a special experience. One of the best in my theatrical life.

Thanks to YouTubery you can watch the film version online  and maybe get a feel for why the Smiths were infatuated with the play and its author, and why The Beatles deferred to Delaney and recorded a cover version of the film's theme song.

I guess A Taste of Honey has cult status among those who are in the know. Delaney wasn't fashionable and in a sense she missed out on a ready Feminist imprimatur as her initial output  predated  the Third Wave.

But her achievement -- in creative isolation as it was -- is remarkable.

Good discussion about Delaney: Shelagh Delaney: extraordinary, unique, bloody marvellous   and the documentary below is renowned for its insightful portraiture of a working class life. One of Ken Russel's better works....

A genuine poet has passed through the world. Shelagh Delaney exercised a wide influence with the shock of plain language, and shafts of satiric wit, into a severe and donnish 1950s world where working-class people had thus far been assumed to be simplistic, flag-waving cannon-fodder. Her writing was a magnificent confession of life as it was commonly lived in her hometown of Salford, with all of its carefully preserved monotony. She was attacked for immorality, which, then as now, is proof that you have hit on something.
'A Taste of Honey' was a sentiment that had not been expressed before its time - far more real than life.
It was the Salford of sagging roofs, rag and bone men, walk-up flats, derelict sites, rear-entrance buses, and life in tight circumstances.
Shelagh Delaney did not become fat with success, or become a celebrity, because she was of richer intellect.
She has always been a part of my life as a perfect example of how to get up and get out and do it. If you worry about respect you don't get it. Shelagh Delaney had it and didn't seem to notice it.
MORRISSEY (lyricist for The Smiths)
Los Angeles, November 2011

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