(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/12; Riveting drama … from left, David Hemmings, Chloe Ashcroft and Phillip Martin in Skyvers at the Royal Court. Photograph: ANL/Rex/Shutterstock.)
Reckord’s unflinchingly honest social document pinned down the flaws in a UK education system that consigned an underclass to a dead-end future
Why are there so few good plays about school life? A handful have achieved iconic status. Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (2004) was once voted the nation’s favourite play. Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version (1948) is a moving study of despised teacher. Nigel Williams’s Class Enemy (1978) captures the anarchy of an inner-city school. But, good as Williams’s play is, it is more than matched by Barry Reckord’s Skyvers (1963). The piece had a fierce champion in the late Pam Brighton, who directed a superb revival in 1971, but it remains curiously little-known.
Reckord’s story is significant. Born in Jamaica, he studied at Cambridge, became a teacher and then a full-time writer who, as Yvonne Brewster has said, “laid a foundation for later emerging Caribbean playwrights such as Mustapha Matura, Michael Abbensetts and Alfred Fagon”. All found a home at the Royal Court in the 60s and 70s, but it was Reckord who paved the way.