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
A new adaptation of a Harper Lee classic on the consequences of racial bigotry and hypocrisy is still a potent drama
To adapt a Pulitzer prize-winning novel like To Kill A Mockingbird for the stage can be daunting enough without it having been immortalised in an Oscar-winning film.
But Christopher Sergal's pared-down adaptation of Harper Lee's novel lives up to the challenge and enhances rather that detracts from his work.
Although most commentators dwell on its powerful anti-racist message, To Kill A Mockingbird is much more complex. It demonstrates that it is not just racism that devalues humanity - class inequality and gender discrimination are equally corrosive.
In this superb and understated production director Max Webster draws out the many themes of the story and captures the slow loss of innocence as the eyes of a group of young children are opened to the cruelty that infests their small community.
The play opens with a rather nervous young girl approaching a microphone and starting to read from Lee's book. She slowly morphs into Scout, the precocious 10-year-old daughter of white liberal lawyer Atticus Finch. In the face of vitriol from his community, he has agreed to defend a black farmhand wrongly accused of raping a white girl.
Shannon Tarbet, returning to the Royal Exchange after her acclaimed performance in the wonderful Mogadishu, is astonishing as the young narrator Scout.
She captures beautifully her sheer bewilderment at the closed minds of the adult world and she has great support from Rupert Simonian as her older brother Jem.
Gregory Peck's towering portrayal of Atticus in the 1962 film does not appear to have fazed Nigel Cooke. He gives a nicely nuanced performance of the conflicted yet determined lawyer.
In many ways To Kill a Mockingbird has been hijacked by the US establishment to appease its collective conscience over its racist legacy.
But this production, with a great set by James Cotterill which captures the stifling community knitted together by bigotry and hypocrisy, reminds us that discrimination in all its pernicious forms is never far below the surface and it has to be challenged.
It will be future generations who will lead this, so it was great to see so many young people in the audience at the press night.