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
An excellent one-man version of the classic Dickens seasonal story
It's an intriguing fact that in these days of consumer worship one of the most loved and told stories of our times just happens to be a fierce moral statement against the ills of capitalism.
Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol has probably done more to advance the cause of social thinking than any other story simply because of its broad and populist appeal.
The message is irrefutable -putting personal financial gain above all else will lead to unhappiness and ruin. It's very difficult not to feel moved by Scrooge's slow realisation of how an individual's actions can have devastating consequences both for themselves and those around them.
Simon Callow's eloquent one-man adaptation, which returns to the Arts after a sell-out run a year ago, helps us to understand this message. His natural energy and benevolent charm bring the story to life, increasing our sympathy for Scrooge even more so.
His inventive story-telling style is almost paternal, at one point placing toy soldier's boots on his fingers to demonstrate the various barn-dancing steps from one fond night out of Scrooge's past.
And Callow seamlessly switches from wry humour to stern solemnity as he convincingly mimics the personalities and voices of the many characters he portrays.
Only an actor of Callow's calibre could pull off such a challenge with any great effect, particularly as there's no interval - it's all about getting in the zone and staying there.
Aside from a few of his own amusing dance steps the production is a minimal affair so there's the added pressure of keeping the audience engaged and evoking the appropriate atmosphere.
Callow does so, arguably even more powerfully than Patrick Stewart's one-man version of the novella performed in the West End in 2005.
Hats should also be doffed to director and designer Tom Cairns who adds a little sparkle where the set's concerned. At one point Callow lifts a panel on the stage where a camping stove is lit to represent Scrooge's fireplace at home.
Whether it's The Muppet Christmas Carol or some televised adaptation you¹re bound to come across the story in some shape or form this year and you wouldn't be going far astray if you wandered in to see this version instead.
Runs until January 5. Box office: (020) 7836-8463.