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
Red Ladder's new show makes a sharp connection between the market economy and prison
A couple of days after The Thing About Psychopaths opened at the Carriageworks, director Rod Dixon wrote: "We know it's still not quite there" on Facebook.
His apologetic tone is only partly justified by this new one-act play by Ben Tagoe which deals with power and empathy in a system driven by a free market economy.
The work in progress opens with Noel (Shaun Cowlishaw), a "geeky little IT nerd," finding his feet in a busy financial institution. Coerced into bending the rules by the domineering Ray (Babajide Fado), one of the senior traders, it's not long before he's under investigation for criminal activity.
The compressed timescale doesn't really allow for the "everyone's doing it" mentality to be questioned and the arrogance of the characters is undermined by a couple of stumbled lines. The scenes are further weakened by Signe Beckmann's office set design, far more suggestive of the '80s than the present day with its power dressing and sleek black desks.
It's not until Noel is dispatched to prison that the play moves from black comedy to a more complex analysis of power and empathy.
Forced to share a cell, it's not long before he has to learn another tough set of rules from illegal immigrant Emmanuel (Fado) and rapist Michael (William Fox). His fellow inmates are introduced via two cleverly bisecting monologues that offer believable back-stories whereas, in contrast, Ray's personal history is reduced to humorous generalities and sound bites.
The prison scenes, dominated by the unpredictable presence of the psychologically disturbed Michael, benefit from a grim naturalism compared with the almost heightened reality of the office environment.
The dialogue and dilemmas between the two settings are also mirrored, demonstrating that corruption and coercion are endemic in both.
In one key scene, where two outcomes of a life choice are played out, the sense of manipulation even seems to come full circle.
The contrast between high finance and the prison system might be even more powerful if they were afforded the same amount of time in the play instead of being weighted in favour of the latter.
But while it might not be "quite there," The Thing About Psychopaths still asks all the right questions without offering any easy answers.
Tours nationally until May 19, details: www.redladder.co.uk