Exclusive Q&A with Jodie Prenger from A Taste of Honey
| By Carole Lovstrom
(Updated on Jan 15, 2020)
What a treat. I recently had the chance to interview Jodie Prenger who is playing Helen in A Taste of Honey, currently at the Trafalgar Studios. She has such a friendly, jokey, way about her that I was at risk of getting completely distracted and settling in for a girlie chat. Luckily, I managed to regain my focus and ask her about the play and the cast, and a bit about herself.
Read the full Q&A session below.
A background of A Taste of Honey and Jodie Prenger
Shelagh Delaney’s play, set in the 1950s, explores some wonderful but flawed characters and gives the cast a chance to really explore what it was like to be female in the 50s and to be part of a particularly difficult mother/daughter/partner relationship. It is a tough, gritty play with plenty of uncomfortable moments played beautifully by the cast against a fabulous musical backdrop.
Jodie Prenger, who plays the mother, Helen, once again proves her versatility after winning her role as Nancy in Oliver! on the show I’d Do Anything. That was 11 years ago and since then she has enjoyed one success after another both on TV and in stage performances and it's good to see her back in the West End.
Exclusive interview with the star of A Taste of Honey, Jodie Prenger
A Taste of Honey is already attracting great reviews. Why do you think it's so popular?
Jodie: I think the essence of the play still resonates with people and I’m still amazed that this brilliant play was written by a 19-year-old working-class girl from Salford. I think it's just a beautiful piece that gets to you. It gets to us as a cast, and I think that definitely comes across to an audience.
This is a play written in the 1950s. How do you think it translates to today’s society?
Jodie: I always joke, but seriously, when it was first shown at the Stratford East the cast were told where the exits were in case they were going to get mobbed at the end - it was that taboo at the time, but we still deal with the issues now. I think it's great to still bring these issues to the forefront.
What does it feel like to get to the West End after touring the UK?
Jodie: It's brilliant. For everyone to put that much hard work into it and then for it to transfer to the West End, it’s like the cherry on the cake. To have all your graft appreciated and to have the great audiences we’ve had so far, already packed out, has been really, really, lovely.
I love the idea of seeing such an emotional and touching play at the Trafalgar Studios. It is one of my favourite venues as the seating is so intimate and, wherever you are, you feel part of the show. How does a 3-piece orchestra work in this setting?
Jodie: Well, Shelagh Delaney originally envisioned a live trio on stage as she wanted to bring in a young audience to the theatre. The Director has done a great job bringing the music into the show, creating a kind of amazing cinematic effect. And there’s some great music throughout the scenes. It works really well.
What challenges have there been putting on such a tough play?
Jodie: The challenges come in baring your soul, and going to places you don’t often go to. Some people have only seen me in musical theatre but it's good to take myself out of the box a bit and explore new challenges. It’s been great. Things lead on to other things. My Nanna always says: “If it’s meant for you, it won’t pass you by.”
After all that touring, are you now living in London?
Jodie: Yes, with some other cast members. It’s like a little episode of Friends – myself and the girl who plays my daughter [Gemma] and Katie from the show are all living together. We’ve had such a great time of it and I’m sure we will continue to. I hope so. I’ve just put a Christmas tree up and I don’t feel like ripping it down again!
What do you think you will be doing next? You’ve got a fabulous voice, you’ve proved you can act, what else can you do?
Jodie: Clean out chickens but that’s a whole other story ….“farmer Jo?” [joking, I think, but, well….]
[We get a little sidetracked and start talking about Jodie’s menagerie and I can see she is extremely fond of all her animals.]
I try again, curious to see what is on the horizon for Jodie. What next?
Jodie: You never know. There are a couple of things: one for next year and something exciting for 2021. Really excited to see what happens.
Could you be going to the Jungle?
Jodie: Umm…...[laughs, hard - I do too]
[I told her to wait for the call, and I’d be voting for her.]
It was a privilege meeting Jodie on the set of this classic, enduring and absolutely still-relevant play. She talks about working alongside “extraordinary” talents, and clearly sees this as a team effort, with cast, crew, and creatives bringing the semi-musical version to life in such a successful way.
And then it was time to end our chat. Forget the “air kissing,” we finished with a warm hug and thank-you’s all round. Lovely.
A Taste of Honey is, as Jodie says “a play with music, rather than a musical” and I think this is one of the things that makes it so special. The play itself has such depth and Jodie’s clever portrayal of Helen is something not to be missed. The competition is fierce in the West End at the moment but this show holds its own and the energy and storytelling combined with the intimacy of London's Trafalgar Studios and musical elements make it a “must-see.”
A Taste of Honey Trafalgar Studios tickets now on special offer!
Only six weeks are left to get the last remaining drops of A Taste of Honey before the revival wraps up its West End run. Book by 1 February 2020 and save up to £39 on tickets valid for all performances until the show's closing! This era-defining masterwork by playwright Shelagh Delaney is back in London for a limited time only after 30 years, so be sure to catch A Taste of Honey now or you may just live to regret it!