This biography of Charles Dickens (which lyrically is amusing as well as informative) is done in the style of The Smiths. The music is very clearly The Smiths and of course the singer hits all of the Morrisseyisms that he can. In addition to some actual Smiths lines (Dickens take a bow, heaven knows I’m miserable now), the song more or less mashes up “Heaven Know I’m Miserable Now” and “This Charming Man.”
It’s very funny and catchy as well. Check out the joy:
[READ: June 30, 2013] A Taste of Honey
I discovered this play because it was mentioned in a documentary about The Smiths, It was one of Morrissey’s favorite movies; he quoted a line from it in “Reel Around the Fountain” (I dreamt about you last night and fell out of bed twice”) and the song “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” is basically a summary of the play (with lines from it).
It’s a fairly modern story for 1959 England (Delaney was 18 when she wrote it), but it seems like rather a downer to be a favorite film/play.
It is the story of Jo, a young girl who is stuck in the dreaded life of living poor in Manchester (The river the color of lead). She has no father around and her mother, Helen, (described as as a semi-whore (!), is quite unpleasant). Indeed, the opening scene of the play is the two of them bickering in a hole in the wall flat that feels dirty just by reading it.
Eventually a man comes along who promises to take Helen away from all of this. He may be her pimp (specifics are not really given in the story and I wondered if they would be more obvious if it was 1959 (or in the movie). But it’s clear that he has money and seems to be willing to bring Helen home. At the same time, he is terribly mean to Jo–treating her worse than her mother does. By the end of the scene, he takes Helen away, leaving Jo on her own.
But soon after we see her with The Boy, a young black sailor with whom she is madly in love (this was pretty progressive for 1959). He asks her to marry him. She accepts almost jokingly. But he is also off to war again, so who knows just how serious he is. Nevertheless, there is a lot of sweetness (and good quotes) as the Act breaks.
In Act II Jo is pregnant and hanging out with a new boy named Geoffrey. Although there is no specific indication in the story to this effect, Geoffrey is gay, or at east an artist. (I can’t image how they play that in the movie. It doesn’t state directly that he is gay and he doesn’t say anything that suggests he is–it all comes from cues from those around him). Geoffrey needs a place to live (he has very little money). So she invites him to stay with her. He begins looking after her as well (even though she protests). But soon enough she is showing and she doesn’t want to leave the flat and be seen pregnant. (again, a taboo subject or two there).
In the final act, Helen comes back, (after Geoffrey tracks her down). She rails against Jo in the way only a mother can and Geoffrey feels terrible about inviting her over. There is a contentious scene in which Geoffrey, Helen, Jo and Peter (Helen’s fella) crowd into the room, accusing each other of things. Jo wants nothing to do with any of them.
As the play ends, Jo is about to give birth, still determined to hate babies and men and the whole business.
As I say this is a dark play with very dark characters. I have to wonder if it is played in any way comically–is the fight between Helen and Jo at the beginning a loving sparring or just pure malice? [The relationship seems to be the basis for Absolutely Fabulous]. There are moments of redemption, but for the most part it is a scathing look at lower class life in Manchester. Something which Morrissey himself sung about with great vigor.