Renowned British playwright Shelagh Delaney has died at the age of 71 from cancer in Suffolk, England.
Perhaps best known for her 1958 kitchen sink drama ‘A Taste of Honey’ (which was also turned into a successful 1961 film of the same name), Delaney came from a poor Irish background in Salford, a grim suburb of Manchester.
Only 19 at the time she wrote ‘A Taste of Honey,” it perfectly captured the working-class ethos of northern England and fed the public’s appetite for more realistic portrayals of the life of ordinary member of society.
Along with John Osborne's Look Back in Anger and Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Delaney’s “Taste of Honey’ is considered the finest works from that genre.
The play was a hit in both London and New York and provided Delaney with unprecedented (and unexpected) fame for such a young woman from a modest background.
‘A Taste of Honey’ was unusually daring for the time, since it dealt directly with such taboo subjects are out of wedlock pregnancy, interracial romance, racism and homosexuality.
Delaney once said that most theatre plays depicted safe, sheltered, cultured lives in charmed surroundings, not life as the majority of ordinary people know it.
She added: No one in my play despairs. Like the majority of people, they take in their stride whatever happens to them and remain cheerful.
Discussing her hometown of Salford, Delaney once gushed: The language is alive, it's virile, it lives and it breathes and you know exactly where it's coming from. Right out of the earth. Down by the river it's even romantic, if you can stand the smell.”
Although Delaney never regained the heights of success and popularity as she did with ‘A Taste of Honey,’ she continued writing plays and scripts for decades up until her passing.
Her fame was extended by the fact that Morrissey, lead singer of the 1980s UK super-group The Smiths, was a great admirer of her work and often lifted lines of her dialogue for his song lyrics. He also used her image on some of the band’s album and single covers, including 1987’s ‘Louder Than Bombs.’
Delaney and Morrissey were both of Irish descent and grew up in Manchester.
In 1986, Morrissey told the New Musical Express: I've never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney.
Delaney is survived by a daughter Charlotte, and three grandchildren.