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
LIKE I say, I get around. Sometimes, though, I even surprise myself.
The formula of casting a screen star in a West End production invariably gets bums on seats and that's certainly the case in this production of Macbeth featuring James McAvoy as the eponymous villain who "murdered sleep."
It's doing great box office but that's about the only measure of this production's success.
In the Trafalgar Studios, unconvincingly reconfigured as an arena-style theatre, director Jamie Lloyd comes up with a dystopian vision of a Scotland peopled by what seem to be near-future refugees from Trainspotting, with the three witches sporting gas masks which render them inaudible virtually throughout.
The martial context - Macbeth at the play's opening has just defeated the forces threatening to overthrow the king he himself later murders to get his bloodstained mitts on the crown - is rendered by some pretty cliched sound and lighting effects and unconvincing stage fights, with McAvoy's athletic Macbeth an exception.
There's a lot of Kensington gore daubed about and at the play's conclusion, where Macbeth and Macduff fight to the death with claymores while all around them sport assault rifles, blood pours down from the flies and drenches the stage floor.
These expressionistic and at times inexplicably anachronistic effects rapidly pall and the uncertain performances right through the batting order don't help in providing much light of interpretation in the all-pervasive gloom either.
Many of the lines are delivered with inexplicable caesuras and in a range of accents - some "Scottish" and some most definitely not - which misshape Shakespeare's allusive verse, saturated in imagery of blood, darkness and night.
Updating Macbeth's disintegration in the pursuit of power - which leads to civil war and ultimately the restoration of "peace" with the assistance of the English army - to a near-future dictatorship where Scotland's on the verge of economic and environmental collapse comes across as a misconceived proposition.
Tendentiously, the programme notes reference Mussolini, Ceausescu and the war-torn Congo as part of the rehearsal research process and one wonders why examples of power-hungry couples and blood-crazed nobility closer to home weren't explored - the Huhnes' hubris and Prince Harry gung-ho in a helicopter in Afghanistan readily spring to mind.
Shakespeare's been done to death over the last 12 months to cash in on the heritage opportunities afforded by the Olympics and what this production demonstrates is that that hasn't necessarily led to any new interpretive insights. This just comes across as overkill in consequence. Avoid.
Runs until April 27. Box office: 0844 871-7632.
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