London: British playwright Shelagh Delaney, best known for her debut work ‘A Taste of Honey’ from 1958, has died aged 71, her agent said on Monday.
She passed away on Sunday night at her daughter`s home in eastern England, Jane Villiers told Reuters. British media reported she died of cancer.
A Taste of Honey, about a working class girl who falls pregnant during a fling with a black sailor before finding comfort with a gay art student, opened in London when Delaney was still a teenager.
Despite tackling social issues that were controversial at the time, the play that was part of the gritty "kitchen sink" movement in British literature enjoyed a successful run in London`s West End before transferring to Broadway.
In 1961 it was turned into an acclaimed movie, for which Delaney and co-writer Tony Richardson won a BAFTA, Britain`s equivalent of the Oscars.
Her second play, ‘The Lion in Love,’ did not meet high expectations when it was staged in 1960, and Delaney moved gradually away from the theater into film and television.
Her screen credits included ‘The White Bus’ and ‘Charlie Bubbles,’ both from 1967, but her biggest success came in 1985 with ‘Dance With a Stranger,’ about Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1955.
Delaney was born in Salford, Manchester, in northern England, which the writer later credited with inspiring much of her work and imbuing in her a sense of restlessness.
Her words were a major influence on Morrissey, lead singer of indie band The Smiths, who also grew up in Manchester. He used lyrics from her plays, notably A Taste of Honey, and featured her in the artwork for the ‘Louder Than Bombs’ album.
Michael Billington, theater critic for the Guardian newspaper, credited her with opening new horizons for female writers from modest backgrounds.
"Objectively viewed, you could say Delaney`s career never fulfilled its initial promise," he wrote in a commentary.
"But what she did do was open a door for succeeding generations -- and if we now think there is nothing freakish or unusual about women dramatists making a mark in their teens or coming from a working-class background, we have Shelagh Delaney to thank for it."
Delaney is survived by her daughter Charlotte, and her grandchildren Max, Gable and Rosa.