• U.S.

Theater: It Won’t Do, Luv

2 minute read

The Lion in Love, by Shelagh Delaney. When a dispossessed class finds its voice, its proudest possession is its tongue. Everyone must be told—and told off—about how it feels to be an economic, or a racial, or a social, outcast. In A Taste of Honey, Britain’s Shelagh Delaney, then a semiliterate 18-year-old, gave tongue richly and scathingly to her bitterly impoverished girlhood in industrial Lancashire. Out of her background, she dramatically distilled a kind of urban folk poetry, humor and wisdom, and in a candidly observed relationship between a shiftless mother and a rebel daughter added fresh scenes to the eternal duelogue of parent and child. At 21, she turned again to the short and simple annals of the poor, which, in her vision, are long and squalid.

The play’s North of England family relies on the triple diversions of the unblessed poor: booze, bickering and sex. Grandpa belts the brandy. Mum and Dad fight whenever Dad isn’t swiving a neighbor lady, and Mum isn’t being hauled off to the cooler for disorderly conduct. Their son is an ex-pug, his friend is a pimp, and so it goes. Unfortunately, the play does not go—either toward social comment or domestic disaster, or toward that uncommon probing of the commonplace, the drab and the degraded that unveils an expanse of spirit in a waste of shame. All that remains is slice-of-life realism, which an inept director and cast turn into a slice at life that misses by a Manchester mile.

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