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Just Like Mohicans (1985)

Courtesy of Channel 4 Television

Main image of Just Like Mohicans (1985)
Channel 4, tx. 21/3/1985, colour, 40 mins
DirectorFaith Isiakpere
Production CompanyHolmes Associates
ProducerAndrew Holmes
ScriptTrix Worrell

Cast: Mona Hammond (Shirley); Gary Beadle (Barrington); John Fowler (Steve); David Doyle (Si)

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A youth burgling an old woman's house experiences a revealing confrontation with the older generation.

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Shot on video on location, Just Like Mohicans is a short but vivid character study which throws together two generations: Jamaican immigrant Shirley (Mona Hammond) and petty criminal Barrington (Gary Beadle), a London-born youth from a family originally from St. Lucia. Barrington talks with Shirley after being left in her house following an unrewarding burglary attempt with two white youths. Through their encounter, the play explores tensions facing immigrants and their British-born children.

Their relationship shifts from that of captor and captive to one of mutual interest, but generational tensions are also exposed. Shirley disapproves of acquisitive, impatient youths whose criminality contrasts with her pride in raising her family. Barrington believes that black people face the same lack of opportunities now as when Shirley arrived in 1957. Britain was a beacon of opportunity for Shirley's generation but her daughters have emigrated to the United States and Canada respectively, leaving her isolated (in Barrington's opinion).

Barrington has faced an identity crisis as a British-born youth whose culture is nearer to that of his white friends than to his family's background. As a result, he experienced taunting from black schoolmates, and Barrington's scornful response to them forms the play's title. His dilemma is mirrored by the fact that the play at first focuses on two white youths, Steve and Si, but they disappear completely after the gang falls out over Steve's violence towards Shirley. Barrington denies that he intervened because she was black, though he had previously chained up a white woman, which suggests a character fighting the kind of nascent consciousness encouraged by Shirley: an interest in one's origins, and anger at black youths who turn violent towards their own communities. The play is at its most charged when Barrington and Shirley reach points of hitherto neglected communication and connection, although the ending problematises this.

Just Like Mohicans was an early credit for Trix Worrell, winning the Channel 4's Debut '84 New Writers competition under the title Mohicans. Barrington shares Worrell's St. Lucian roots, though Worrell emigrated to Britain at the age of five. Barrington's Anglicised tastes are echoed, comedically, in Worrell's popular sitcom Desmond's (C4, 1989-94), with which Just Like Mohicans shares themes and character names (such as Shirley and her late husband Desmond). However, Just Like Mohicans illustrates the engaging talent for tough drama which has placed Worrell in demand in film and television in Britain and Hollywood.

Dave Rolinson

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Video Clips
1. Close encounters (3:04)
2. Something deep (4:09)
3. Englishman! (2:17)
4. No contact (2:29)
Hammond, Mona
Worrell, Trix (1960-)
Black TV Writers