Byline: by Diana Athill
It is good to see some of Barry Reckord's plays in print, but would be better to see more of them, particularly his second, You in Your Small Corner. It is not the editors' fault that the collection is incomplete. Barry was hopelessly careless with his scripts. I, his family and his friends dug about feverishly and found what we could, while he lay in bed (he has been very ill for several years), wishing us well but unable to help.
One copy of Small Corner did turn up eventually, but after the book had gone to press. Its production at the Royal Court in the Sixties coincided with the beginning of our long friendship. I liked Barry's first play - at the time it was a great excitement for him to have a play on at the Royal Court, not because he was Jamaican (he had gone to Cambridge and by then had lived in the UK for a long time), but because it was so soon, so early. When we first met he was married, but soon after the play's success his marriage ended and he came to live with me. We lived together for the best part of 40 years.
It seemed then that his writing career would go from strength to strength. And indeed his wit, originality and excellence as a writer never failed.Why they didn't keep him "on stage", so to speak, for longer than they did was because he gradually became more and more obsessional about putting across ideas.His plays, however sparkly their first acts were, ended by being "preachy". He was well aware of this problem but seemed to be overcome by great waves of boredom at the prospect of dealing with it.
Although it saddened him when his plays started to be rejected, he never became embittered - he just went on patiently rewriting, and then starting something new, while always remaining himself: a man very bad at suffering those he considered to be fools, but he was consistently sweet-tempered, loyal and loving to his friends.
I think it probable that disappointment contributed to the failure of his health, but it never made him other than his dear self to those who were close to him.
For the Reckord: A Collection of Three Plays by Barry Reckord is published by Oberon Books, [pounds sterling]14.99