Entertainment & Arts

Taste of Honey Playwright Shelagh Delaney dies at 71

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Media captionShelagh Delaney, speaking in 1960 about her childhood and inspirations

Playwright Shelagh Delaney, best known for A Taste of Honey, has died at the age of 71.

Her agent Jane Villiers confirmed the writer died of cancer at her daughter's Suffolk home on Sunday night.

Delaney was 19 when A Taste of Honey, about the friendship between a young pregnant woman and a gay artist, premiered in 1958.

A success in both London and New York, it was made into a Bafta-winning film in 1961, starring Rita Tushingham.

She wrote it in just two weeks, reworking material she had written for a novel.

The play, considered one of the era's "kitchen sink" dramas, portrayed working class life in Salford where Delaney grew up.

Morrissey muse

A Taste of Honey opened at Royal Stratford East in London, before moving to the West End in 1959, and was considered controversial at the time.

In 1960, it opened on Broadway in New York, with Joan Plowright as Jo and Angela Lansbury as her mother.

Image caption Delaney was just 18 when she wrote Taste of Honey

Plowright won a Tony award for her performance.

Delaney once described most theatre as "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."

Delaney's subsequent work never reached the heights of her debut, but she continued to write scripts.

Her second play, The Lion in Love, was produced in 1960 in Coventry, and transferred to the Royal Court in London later that year.

She later wrote for film, TV and radio, including 1967's Charlie Bubbles, starring Albert Finney, and 1977's The House That Jack Built, which was later staged in New York.

She also wrote the screenplay for 1985's Dance With a Stranger, based on the life of Ruth Ellis, who in 1955 was the last woman in the UK to be hanged for shooting her partner.

Directed by Mike Newell, it starred Miranda Richardson as Ellis.

Delaney enjoyed further fame when Morrissey, lead singer with The Smiths, lifted several lines from her plays, including: "I dreamt of you last night and I fell out of bed twice."

Her image featured on the cover of the band's 1987 album, Louder Than Bombs.

Speaking to the NME in 1986, Morrissey said: "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."

She is survived by her daughter, Charlotte, and three grandchildren.