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
Composer Alban Berg failed to complete the opera Lulu before his untimely death and this production by David Pountney includes the final third act as completed by Eberhard Kloke.
Though it's a challenging work, the decadent life of Lulu on display fails to grip the emotions or senses and lacks any real contemporary resonance. The unpleasantness of all the characters is matched perfectly by a score that is dramatic but lacks emotional bite.
By the end, Lulu has been married three times and the stage is littered with the bodies of her husbands and lovers as well as herself - murdered by Jack the Ripper after the action whizzes across from the continent to London.
And yet it all seems so passionless, despite the best efforts of Marie Arnet (pictured) in the title role with beautifully acted and sung support from Richard Angas, Peter Hoare and especially Ashley Holland.
At one point Holland, who doubles as Lulu's third husband Dr Schon and Jack the Ripper, complains about the corruption being carried out under his roof and while this brings a smile to the audience, it's also accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. Elsewhere, blaming the bankers for a stock market crash that seals Lulu's fate and means she turns to prostitution raises a chuckle but little else.
And that really is the bugbear of this production. It fails to engage and induce empathy for any of the principals.
In a way what Berg created was an opera that was radical when it was first composed and performed but has not really stood the test of time. That has undermined its capacity to shock bourgeois sensibilities, dulled by the carryings-on of "celebrity" culture.
There are some arresting devices though, such as keeping a tally of the body count by hanging the dead corpses of Lulu's partners above the stage.
But at three-and-a-half hours this is a long opera. By the end it was disconcerting to find oneself willing Jack the Ripper to finish the proceedings off as quickly as possible and bring the curtain down on a very mixed evening.
Runs until April 2, box office: (029) 2063-6464, then tours Wales and England, details: www.wno.org.uk.