A Taste of Honey: historical context

A Taste of Honey: historical context

Historical Context of A Taste of Honey

Playwright and Publication

  • A Taste of Honey” is a play written by Shelagh Delaney, first performed in 1958.
  • It was written when Delaney was just 19, bringing a new perspective to theatre - that of the young, female, working class.


  • The play is part of the genre known as “kitchen sink drama”, a term used to describe British plays of the 1950s and 1960s that focused on working-class life.
  • This genre sought to illustrate the harsh realities and social changes of the period.


  • The backdrop of the play takes place in post-war Britain, specifically in the 1950s, a time of social upheaval, economic depression, and the start of the feminist and civil rights movements.
  • The play is set in the industrial city of Manchester, a setting often associated with economic hardship and struggle.

Themes and Social Critique

  • Delaney’s play is a critique of the social issues of the time, tackling themes such as poverty, single parenting, racism, and homosexuality.
  • The bold exploration of these topics was revolutionary for its time.
  • A Taste of Honey” challenged the norms of the time, calling to question institutionally accepted prejudices.
  • The play reflects changes that were happening in society regarding class, race, and gender, reflecting the beginning of a move away from stereotypical roles.

Influences and Movements

  • British New Wave Cinema, a popular movement during the time, influenced “A Taste of Honey”.
  • The play was written during a time called the “Angry Young Men” movement in British literature.
  • This movement was characterized by disillusionment with traditional British norms and the class system.

Response to Societal Reforms

  • The Welfare State reforms introduced by the Labour government after World War II, such as free healthcare (NHS) and improved education, were set to erase social inequalities.
  • However, the play offers a perspective that these reforms were ineffective in eradicating poverty and prejudice.

Feminist Subtext

  • A Taste of Honey” is a response to the state of the nation though the depiction of a struggling working-class woman, going against the traditional portrayal of women as mothers and wives.
  • It predates second wave feminism.