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.
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
THEIR stunning costumes may have been languishing in a container ship just off Felixstowe.
But even if the cast had been wearing sackcloth, rather than a wardrobe hastily assembled from the bowels of the Globe Theatre, it wouldn't have diminished the fire of Wang Xiaoying's exhilarating production of Richard III by the National Theatre Of China.
Presented as part of the Globe to Globe International Shakespeare Festival, this Beijing Opera-meets-Shakespeare production is every bit as exciting as you could imagine in this history, refracted through Chinese sensibilities and performed in Mandarin.
Lady Anne, the tragic heroine widowed by the man she is about to marry, is perhaps the clearest exemplar of the demanding Beijing Opera discipline and her fluting delivery and fluid movements mesmerisingly communicate her miserable circumstances.
Richard's two henchmen perform their murderous duties in full martial-arts mode, with expert clowning and tumbling skills.
Some wonderfully crude Yo Mama expletives hint at Shakespeare rewritten for Chinese audiences, all aided by an atmospheric soundscape from a one-man traditional percussion band.
Stylised to the eyeballs it may be, yet there's enough naturalism conveying emotional nuance and clear delineation of character to satisfy modern audiences.
It's difficult not to draw current Bo Xilai parallells from the opening scene, where the dissembling Richard, Duke of Gloucester - the charismatic Zhang Dongyu - lays out his villainous ambitions to rise to the top on a wave of havoc. It has a familiar ring, building inexorably to the climax.
Such power games abound in this mire of corruption where, from the outset, Tricky Dicky congratulates himself on the virtuosity of his various manipulations.
With the major conflict of the War of the Roses over, the new dynasty established and Richard's brother Edward on the throne, our anti-hero plots to wipe out his rivals, beginning with his brother Clarence.
Preying on innocents, he leaves a trail of dead before finally dispatching the young nephews blocking his path to the throne.
Surtitles, giving descriptions of scenes rather than complete translations, announce: "To win over the people, Buckingham praises Richard's virtues" and "Richard pretends to be modest, making a show of refusing to accept power."
So no analogies here, then.
Buckingham's fawning foray into the auditorium in the coronation scene to rouse the masses with cries of "wànsuì" - "long live" - sparked mirthful recognition among the Chinese half of the audience.
Strangely, they seemed to derive a jolly catharsis from seeing their crafty leader wracked with guilt, suffering and ultimately dying.
The rest of us still got it, too, proving both the universality of Shakespeare and that we have more in common than we have differences.