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You in Your Small Corner (1962)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of You in Your Small Corner (1962)
For Play of the Week, Granada for ITV, tx. 5/6/1962
82 min, black & white
DirectorClaude Whatham
ScriptBarry Reckord

Cast: Lloyd Reckord (Dave Jordan); Elizabeth MacLennan (Terry Jamieson); Ida Shepley (Mrs. Jordan); Charles Hyatt (Jim); Michael Robbins (Georgie); Margery Mason (Mum)

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Dave Jordan has just moved to London from Jamaica to be with his mother, who runs a social club in Brixton. Mrs Jordan has ambitions for her only son and is mortified when he starts seeing Terry - not because she's white but because she's a working class Cockney.

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First presented at the Royal Court, Jamaican dramatist Barry Reckord's 'You in Your Small Corner' is one of the earliest attempts to represent the Afro-Caribbean migrant experience from a non-white perspective on British television.

The play deals with the intricacies of the colour-class complex that affected both the black and white communities in Britain. Through the story of the relationship between Dave, a young middle-class West Indian (played by the writer's brother, Lloyd Reckord), and his white, working-class girlfriend, Terry, Reckord wanted to show that "class and colour inferiority seem to be the same - the coloured man is marked by his skin, and the white man is marked by his accent."

Drawing on Barry Reckord's experience as a Cambridge University student in the 1950s, the character of Dave embodies the dilemmas and disillusions of the first postwar generation of black intellectuals. Young Lloyd Reckord brings passion and sensitivity to a role laden with essay-like references to the traumas of the colonial experience in a post-imperial world. The sensual scenes of the two lovers were a bold step for their time but, perhaps surprisingly, they did not cause any of the controversy that surrounded the interracial kiss in the more mainstream Emergency Ward 10 (ITV, 1957-67) two years later.

None of the characters can escape from the tyrannies of racial and class prejudice. Dave cannot hide his disappointment when he finds out that Terry is a factory worker, and he is particularly bitter about Terry and her family's attraction to the trappings of consumerist culture (television, rock 'n' roll music, cars). He is disturbed by the bigotry of Terry's brother, Georgie, but even more shaken to realise that he feels an outsider to the English high society he wants to be part of. Mrs Jordan, Dave's domineering mother and proprietor of a Jamaican social club, fights hard to avoid him being tagged not only as 'coloured' but also as 'cockney'.

The play's frank sexuality, its passionate exploration of class and racial differentiations within Britain's black and white population, and its attempt to break away from the restrictions of a studio-based theatricality through the expressive use of still photographs laid some of the cornerstones for subsequent thematic and formal innovations in black-authored drama.

Eleni Liarou

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Video Clips
1. Meeting the family (3:20)
2. 'Let's dance' (1:24)
3. Last night (6:18)
Reckord, Barry (1926-2011)
Reckord, Lloyd (1929)
Black TV Writers