Shelagh Delaney’s legacy

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“A taste of honey” | Mod Culture | 14430

Playwright Shelagh Delaney died of cancer on 20 November 2011. Her legacy is commented on in The Guardian Letters. Nicholas De Jongh writes:

“At the time, and until 1968, the lord chamberlain was responsible for licensing and censoring plays. Delaney was the first dramatist successfully to overcome the ancient, censorial veto on stage plays that openly depicted gay characters or discussed homosexuality. Her sympathetic portrayal of the play’s young, gay student was, therefore, ground-breaking. Until then playwrights tried to evade the censor’s veto by resorting to subterfuge and innuendo. When A Taste of Honey was submitted for licensing it caused a furore. The lord chamberlain’s assistant comptroller, Brigadier Norman Gwatkin, commented: “I think it’s revolting, quite apart from the homosexual bits … To me it has no saving grace whatsoever. If we pass muck like this, it does give our critics something to go on.” “

Shelagh Delaney | Unknown photographer | Channel 4 | 14431

“But the lord chamberlain’s chief play-reader, Charles Heriot, judged: “It is concerned with the forbidden subject in a way that no one I believe could take exception to.” The lord chamberlain inclined to Heriot’s view and licensed the play. It is highly probable that Delaney’s treatment of the subject and the favourable critical and public response to A Taste of Honey played a significant role in persuading the lord chamberlain partially to relax his ban on homosexuality and gays a few months later. Shelagh Delaney ought to rank as a gay heroine.”

She is, Nicholas.


SP

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