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
It's lunchtime on a Paris cafe terrace where Berenger (Serge Maggiani), an unkempt sceptic who's fond of a drink, is suffering the admonitions of Jean (Hugues Quester), as he seeks to rectify his friend's errant existence.
Then, out of nowhere, a rhinoceros charges through. Mayhem erupts as chairs fly through the air and the patrons seek cover while vainly attempting to keep the beast at bay.
As soon as they recover and try to make sense of what they've just witnessed the rhinoceros gallops through again, adding disquiet to the widespread confusion. A heated debate on where the beast's come from and what it's up to breaks out, to no avail.
Back at Berenger's work, a place of office politics and routine turmoil, gossip about the inexplicable sighting is rife - until the rhino reappears on the ground floor. As it begins to wreck the place one of the office workers recognises her husband in the beast and leaves riding astride it.
It becomes clear that it is the people of the city who are morphing into rhinoceroses - even Jean cannot resist this transformation as he pours scorn on Berenger's defence of rationality, free-thought, courage and moral integrity.
Eugene Ionesco's classic missive against opportunism and the paralysing fear of freedom is spectacularly realised in this Theatre de la Ville-Paris production of Rhinoceros. The cast of 13, under the inspired guidance of Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, are superb.
The masterly staging is highly evocative, combining pomposity and tragedy with a refreshing dose of absurdist humour.
Ionesco had the idea for the play when he saw his compatriots and relatives gradually embrace fascism in 1930s Romania and, absurdist genealogy apart, it is still a clear and persuasive warning against all forms of conformism in an age of simplistic solutions.