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Where I Live (1960)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK

Main image of Where I Live (1960)
For Armchair Theatre, ABC for ITV, tx. 10/1/1960
60 minutes, black & white
DirectorTed Kotcheff
ProducerSydney Newman
ScriptClive Exton

Cast: Ruth Dunning (Jessy Turner); Robert Brown (Bert Turner); Lloyd Lamble (George Dove); Madge Ryan (Vi Dove); Paul Curran (Dad)

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Dad lives with his daughter Jessy and her husband Bert. Jessy, however, is growing tired of caring for him, and wonders whether her brother, George, could look after him for a while. But George and his wife, Vi, have other ideas.

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Armchair Theatre's (ITV, 1956-74) first production of 1960 was a frivolous, if black, period comedy, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime' (tx. 3/1/1960). The second, however, was much more indicative of the direction the strand was taking under the guidance of producer Sydney Newman. 'Where I Live' was the first of eight Armchair Theatres - six of them in 1960 alone - to come from the pen of Clive Exton, who did much to help realise Newman's vision.

'Where I Live' defines itself with its opening shot - a slow pan across a dilapidated backyard strewn with detritus (a tin bath, a broken bicycle), with the camera finally peering through a kitchen window and coming to rest on an elderly man sitting glumly alone at the table. In what is perhaps a wry acknowledgement of the popular term for the new breed of British social-realist drama, a kitchen sink is clearly visible in the foreground.

Exton's script deals with selfishness, class division and family breakdown - all potent issues for Britain as it entered a new decade - in a spare and emotionally brutal story of a brother and sister battling over which one is to be saddled with their aged, widowed father. Jessy and her husband Bert have cared for the old man for years, despite their stretched means - Bert is a sales assistant and Jessy is, uncomfortably for her husband, forced to work to supplement his wage. George and his wife Vi, meanwhile, are growing relatively wealthy on the thriving business George has built with his father's retirement money.

In script, direction or performances, the play makes no great efforts to elicit special sympathy for any character: not the self-martyring Jessy or her tender but timid husband; not the callous, social-climbing George or his sour, snobbish wife; not even the unfortunate Dad, who blindly worships his successful but distant son while remaining indifferent to the feelings of his daughter and cruelly undermining his well-meaning but unambitious son-in-law. Yet, despite the stagey performances (somewhat tempered by the fluid, mobile camera that was by now a feature of Armchair Theatre), 'Where I Live''s tragic, bitter conclusion, with Dad, rejected by his daughter in a moment of desperation, dragged off to a new existence with his wholly unwelcoming son, still carries an emotional charge.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. 'Under my feet' (2:09)
2. It's all coming out (3:28)
3. A bit of pride (5:20)
Armchair Theatre (1956-74)
Live TV Drama