The early critics of A Taste of Honey, most of whom greeted the play with enthusiasm, commented especially on three features of the play: its looseness of structure, the authentic flavor of its dialogue, and its overall vitality.
The play’s structural looseness may reflect the limits of its young and inexperienced playwright’s skill at plotting. Shelagh Delaney was only seventeen years old when she began writing A Taste of Honey, and she was for the most part unfamiliar with the classics of dramatic literature. What spurred her to write was her belief that she could come up with something better than the play by Terence Rattigan, a successful commercial playwright, that she had been watching while working as an usher at a local theater.
Thus, there was a pleasing air of amateurism about Delaney’s emergence as an important new playwright of the British theater in the late 1950’s. Yet the structural openness of Delaney’s play may not be merely a consequence of amateurism. Whatever his limitations as an artist, Rattigan was a polished craftsman; the structure of his plays was normally impeccable. It was probably in part against this very quality, the neatness with which everything is made to fit together, that Delaney was reacting. The absence of a conventionally constructed plot, in favor of a structure closer to the random nature of life as it is lived, may then reflect a conscious decision on the part of the young playwright. At any rate, audiences have accepted the play’s structure as...
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