SALFORD staged the second annual day of commemoration to author and playwright Shelagh Delaney, on what would have been her 76th birthday, with the world premiere based on her book ‘Sweetly sings the Donkey’. Quays News reporter Andie Riley was there for us…

Being a troll is not a new phenomenon.

If one of the remits of theatre is to make you think, then this work, part of the second annual Shelagh Delaney day, certainly achieved its aim.

Split into two parts, the first part of the show is dominated by a new piece of work by Salford Arts Theatre 17-25 technical performance company.

Entitled “Music Box”, it explores the lives of four young women who feel their lives changing, and out of their control.

It’s not often a piece of work can really challenge an audience, but this group of young ladies really managed that, with a set of four standalone short tales of how Young people are under such pressure in the modern world.

We then moved on to the winner of the Shelagh Delaney short story competition for 2015.

“Everything is seen at its best in the dark” by Neil Campbell is a short story that will mean I can never look at the Old Pint Pot pub by the Irwell in the same way ever again. Read live by Salford actor Scott T. Berry, the audience were rapt as the tale of Sue unfolded.

Suffice to say, I had a tear in my eye as the tale unfolded, and you will be able to read it, and the 19 other shortlisted stories when they are published by Bridge House in January of next year.

We went to the interval to the sound of the Charlie Bubbles theme (closing credits).

I had no idea that Shelagh Delaney had written the screenplay to Albert Finney’s 1967 directorial debut, nor that it had been filmed in and around parts of Salford, but a lovely bouncy piece of music it is.

We returned to the main event…

“All about and to a Female Artist” is another challenging piece, this time created by Stuart Stevens from Delaney’s own work.

Once she achieved fame for her first work, “A Taste of Honey” Delaney received numerous criticisms, begging letters and the like. She was trolled in an age where to do so was to take the time and effort to sit down, write a letter, put it in an envelope and then pay for a stamp and post it to the person.

Analogue trolling…

What Stuart has done is take these, which she herself did in her book “Sweetly sings the Donkey”, and set them to a cross between classical and experimental music and voices, both choral and spoken.

The four actors on the stage, along with Thumb contemporary music ensemble, narrate these letters and criticisms with a wit, grace and humour that often belies the true venom and desperation that lurks within the words written on the page.

Roni Ellis, Jess Cummings, Rebekah Daven-Watson and the inimitable Scott T. Berry more than do justice to the work, which is composed in Stuart Stevens unusual system of 31 notes, rather than the usual 12, aided by a specially made guitar with 31 frets.

This was an evening that for someone like me, who’s only real contact with the work of Delaney is the film version of A Taste of Honey, was a real eye opener.

The only person missing this evening was Shelagh’s daughter Charlotte, who was sadly ill and unable to see her mothers work brought to life in this very new, and challenging, way.

To paraphrase the man who cites her as his greatest influence, Morrissey, it wasn’t Shelagh, but Stuart and Co. take a bow…

You can read more about the show in Andie’s preview piece

The Close to Home Show is also on at Salford Arts Theatre tonight (November 26) but tickets are running out.

By Andie Riley

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