My second Letter of Note piece this week concerns one of the major talents of 20th century British theatre: Shelagh Delaney, the Salford-born playwright behind A Taste of Honey, one of the lynchpins of the British New Wave.
Born in 1938, Delaney was just 18 years old when she wrote the work that would become her masterpiece. In the same year that John Osborne's Look Back in Anger broke the boundaries and created the concept of "angry young men", Delaney's A Taste of Honey was shedding light on the myriad social injustices that could befall young women in British society. In 1958, the play was first produced by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in London, opening to strong reviews and transferring from Stratford East to the West End. Delaney later adapted the play for the 1961 film directed by Tony Richardson, which also received positive reviews.
None of this would have come about if Delaney hadn't have had the confidence and self-belief to send her play to Littlewood, accompanied by a short but spirited letter which can be read in full here. By sheer coincidence, given my last post involving Mark Twain and typewriters, the letter was composed just two weeks after Delaney had first started using such an instrument.
If you want more information on the British New Wave, you can read my review of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which gave Albert Finney his first break. Alternatively I would strongly recommend this excerpt from Free Cinema, a documentary created by the brilliant Lindsay Anderson for ITV back in 1986. The ever-cantankerous director of If.... looks at some of the accomplishments of the British New Wave, including the work of his esteemed colleagues Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson. Enjoy!