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Saturday, 17 August 2013


The former headquarters of the White Star Line in Liverpool

A Chinaman and a Jew are sitting together in a railway compartment.
After a while, the Jew gets up and hits the Chinaman.
“Why did you hit me?” asks the victim.
“For Pearl Harbour,” the Jew replies.
“But I’m Chinese”
“Chinese, Japanese it’s all the same to me.”

The train continues on its way.
Some hours later, the Chinaman gets up, and hits the Jew.
“Why did you do that, already?”
“For the Titanic”
“But I’m Jewish.”
“Iceberg, Greenberg, it’s all the same to me.”

This afternoon (17 Aug 2013), we attended a performance of Titanic at the Southwark Playhouse. It is a musical drama written in 1997. It is based on a book by Peter Stone. Its lyrics and music were composed by Maury Yeston (born 1945).

This music drama rivals any that the Brecht/Weill team wrote. It is dramatic, powerful, incisive, interesting, informative, and brilliant musically.  Titanic addresses the important social problems of the class system such that existed just before the First World War (‘WW1’), and still linger on today. The cast directed by Danielle Tarento sing and act beautifully. They mesmerised the audience with their energy, acting skills, and, not least, their beautiful singing. This performance of a drama with great political significance is all of the following: humorous, tear-jerking, exciting, moving, thoughtful, and realistic. As the drama unfolded, it was difficult to believe that we were not aboard that ill-fated liner.

The sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 serves as an unintentionally true-life allegory of much of the 20th century. The liner, built by Harland and Wolff in Liverpool for The White Star Line, was described as being unsinkable. As an Unknown Titanic crew member is supposed to have said to an embarking passenger, Mrs Sylvia Caldwell,
            “God himself could not sink this ship!” (see note  below)
Similarly, several years later, the words, “The war to end all wars” became well-known. Yet, this was not to be the case. Just as the captain of the Titanic failed to heed and act on the dangers posed by the icebergs towards which they were speeding recklessly, the leaders of the Western World and elsewhere failed to take seriously the clear warning signals coming from the likes of Hitler and Mussolini.

While we all live our daily lives distracted by trivial, yet important enough, problems and pleasures, we, like the passengers on the Titanic,  remain largely unaware that our world might be sailing towards yet another iceberg.

 Note: click here 

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