Formed in 2012 with the vision of bringing celebrated plays to a wider audience, Red Rope Theatre are experts in capturing the relevance of a classic text for a contemporary audience.
Their current offering, Shelagh Delaney's 'A Taste of Honey' (1958) provokes their audience to consider the reasoning behind ones judgments. While the repercussions of racial and homosexual prejudice are greatly reduced today, the roots of such intolerance are still all too prevalent. This production does well to bring well-formed, complex and recognisable characters to the story - encouraging their audience to identify the on-going relevance of its themes.
17 years old and pregnant with a mixed race baby, who she plans to raise with her gay friend, Jo (Bethan Croome) refuses to show any shame for her situation. She (quite rightly) continues with her life, apologising to no one; remarkably evolved from the prejudices of the world around her. There is a warmth and tenderness to this production which I believe exceeds any other to date. Matt Grinter manages to identify the most personal and sincere responses of his actors, sculpting them into masterful performances, creating one of the most empathetic and genuine theatre productions I have seen. A piece of work that has fearlessly developed its own style and characterisations, unbound by stereotype or a priori influence. Red Rope are smart to utilise the intimate space of the Alma Tavern to present a piece of work with such fine detail. Something which would have been lost on a bigger venue. This play is not one that seeks to shout to the masses about injustice. But rather, unveils the side to a working class life which its contemporaries feel distant (superior) to.
Zack Powell plays the part of Jo's only friend with great maturity and brings a pragmatic, reliable quality to the character. This compliments Croome's reflective and reasoned portrayal of Jo brilliantly and creates a compelling second act where we see her determined to make her circumstances work, without having to resort to 'love' in order to get by. This attitude of Jo's comes from the ability to learn from her mother's mistakes, a woman who wishes to be self-sufficient, but runs to the arms of a husband the moment marriage is offered. Elliot Chapman and Joey Akubeze both bring a discerning and well-connected quality to the men who have let these women down, ensuring that all dimensions of Delaney's characters are both recognised and significant.
Rebecca Robson and Bethan Croome do well to depict the fractured relationship between a mother and teenage daughter, both hopelessly eager for stability and unable to find this in each other. In contrast to the ridiculous mother-figure who is lacking in complexity or emotion, Robson’s portrayal of the selfish mother comes with such depth and delicacy that you can’t help but endear to her, causing an audience to think for themselves about any judgments they may wish to cast upon her.
A Taste of Honey is a remarkable and compelling piece of theatre that seems to effortlessly connect the past to present. Fans of the original will enjoy the fresh takes on characterisation whilst still being situated, very truthfully to the era in which is written for.
Alma Tavern, Bristol.
18th -29th October 19:30 (Thursday and Saturday matinee at 14:00)