The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Ever have that sinking feeling every time a Titanic dramatisation looms on the horizon only for it to be scuppered by an iceberg of frosty critics?
There are plenty in the pipeline in the 100th year of this tragic event. All the crowd-pleasing ingredients are there - man's hubris, the class system of heartless toffs versus worthless working-class, selfless bravery, craven cowardice, several tons of ice and, in the innumerable film versions, hordes of screaming extras.
Ovation's production of Iceberg Right Ahead has all this, minus ice and extras.
Unable to compete with James Cameron's CGI epic, writer Chris Burgess wisely homes in on a microcosm of social types from the crew and passengers.
All existed, none are inventions, but what is fiction is the first act.
Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were the lookout men at the time of the collision who fouled up for lack of a pair of binoculars.
Here, they are second cousins to George and Lennie from Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men.
Fleet (Matthew Walker) is a Scouse chancer stringing along both his dim-witted "best mate" Reg (Steven George) and a devoted first-class stewardess Violet Jessop (Amy Joyce Hastings) who nips around nicking valuables from the toffs at Fleet's bidding.
She gets inadvertently "murdered" by Reg who doesn't know his own strength - or stupidity - and bunged in a lifeboat only to recover later.
It is while Reg is spilling the beans to Fleet in the crow's nest that their attention fatally falters.
There is also a love affair going on which has overtones of a Feydeau farce, so it comes as a blessed relief when the iceberg strikes and grim truth replaces absurdity and all these types are cast adrift in lifeboats to fend for themselves.
Nearly all the characters are deeply flawed, especially J Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star line, who cravenly jumps aboard a lifeboat with the women and children.
The only one to come out with any credit is the strident feminist the "Unsinkable Molly Brown" who threatens to throw intolerable Quartermaster Hichens (Liam Mulvey) overboard.
This is a barnstorming performance by Rosalind Blessed who proves that she has inherited her father's lungs along with his acting ability.