A: Shelagh Delaney Pf: 1958, London Pb: 1959 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Flat in Salford, 1950s C: 3m, 2fHelen, a peroxide-blonde ‘semi-whore’, has a tense relationship with her teenage daughter Josephine (Jo). When Helen's boyfriend Peter, a used-car salesman ten years younger than her, proposes to her, she leaves Jo alone in their seedy northern bedsit. Jo consoles herself with a black naval rating, Jimmy, whom she lets stay over Christmas, and becomes pregnant. When Jimmy too abandons her, she finds a job, and some months later meets Geoff, an effeminate art student. Although he is a homosexual, he and Jo develop a close relationship, and he even makes a crib for her expected baby. Misguidedly, he sends for Helen, but she is dragged away by the angry Peter. After Peter goes off with a ‘bit of crumpet’, Helen reappears while Jo is asleep. She throws out Geoff, the ‘pansified little freak’. Jo awakes and begins labour, dismayed at Geoff's absence. Helen promises to stay with her, but, when she learns that the baby will be half black, rushes out for drink.
A: Shelagh Delaney Pf: 1958, London Pb: 1959 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Flat in Salford, 1950s C: 3m, 2f
Written by a 19-year-old working-class northern girl, and premiered by Joan Littlewood, this has been probably the most performed play by a post-war British woman playwright. In the wake of Look Back in Anger, it formed part of the new vogue for gritty realist plays, many of which were filmed. Despite the almost melodramatic misery of her existence, Jo's display of good-humoured resourcefulness was an encouragement to post-war British women, and the sympathetic depiction of types at the fringe of society, the black and the homosexual, was ground-breaking.