Jack Farmer

The Hothouse

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The Hothouse is a comedy about torture and interrogation. This pacy new production does well to highlight the hilarity of Harold Pinter's 1958 play, which effortlessly combines the sinister with the silly.

While it may seem bizarre in a play with such weighty subject matter, the actors seem to borrow their best moves from some classic British sitcoms as they send up government bureaucracy. While this over the top production may occasionally become a bit more Are You Being Served? than Yes, Minister, the cast generally do justice to this weird and wonderful play.

Why read Socialism: Utopian and Scientific?

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Everyone who rebels against capitalism is motivated by a vision of a better, more just society. From Martin Luther King's "dream" to the way that the Occupy movement created assemblies designed to demonstrate more democratic forms of organising, to workplaces run without bosses in revolutionary Egypt to student occupations where people discuss and fight for the education free of the fetters of profit-making, people don't just get fed up with the way things are - they think about ways to organise the world differently.

These kinds of ideas are part of a long and proud history of people who have rejected the barbarity of capitalism. Freidrich Engels' pamphlet, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, summarised - and criticised - some of the most sophisticated thinkers to reject the cruelty of the Industrial Revolution and argue for a different way of organising society. Engels dubbed these thinkers - Comte de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen - the "utopian socialists".

Harold Pinter: the personal and political

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The recently renamed Harold Pinter Theatre opened its doors last month with a production of Old Times. Jack Farmer looks at the way political themes are revealed in the most personal of situations in Harold Pinter's plays

Fade up. A man and woman sit in a living room, smoking. Evening. The woman turns her head. "Dark", she says. "Fat or thin?" he asks. Who are they talking about? A second woman with dark hair stands half in shadow by a large window. Is she really in the room with them, or is she just a figment of memory?

Hagel faces up to contradictions in the US economy

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At the beginning of this month another major package of cuts was due to began taking its toll on the US economy.

Though it lacks some of the drama of the so-called "fiscal cliff" that caused so much Congressional chaos at the end of last year, this latest bout of fiscal tightening isn't lacking in severity. Unlike previous mandatory cuts packages, this "sequestration" of funds, originally put forward by President Obama in August 2011, is due to kick in gradually over the next ten years. This will involve budget cuts amounting to an eye-watering $1.2 trillion.

In the Republic of Happiness

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By playwright Martin Crimp

Imagine a white, middle class family eating Christmas dinner, their conversation spiked with snide remarks about Debbie's unplanned pregnancy, Dad's deafness, Mum's tiredness, Granny's selfishness and Granddad's senility and likely impotence. Anger, stress and neuroses bubble close to the surface, but are kept at bay by a baseline of civility and social convention.

Heseltine's revealing report

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Lord Heseltine's recent report on economic growth is no help for working class people - but it shows how the state props up the private sector, writes Jack Farmer

If you've heard about ageing Tory peer Michael Heseltine's recent report on economic growth, entitled No Stone Unturned, you'd be forgiven for assuming it must be boring, specious and right wing. In fact, you'd be more than forgiven - you'd be right.

But there are a few interesting points to be gleaned from this government-commissioned report, because it brings into the open arguments within the ruling class about the way British capitalism should be structured - and especially what role should be played by the state.

The Casual Vacancy

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JK Rowling

Casual racism, local politics, secrets and lies, swearing, shagging, joint smoking, smack scoring, teenage kicks, mid-life crisis, class hatred, self-harming, misery, conflict and death - these are just a few of the delights in store for readers of JK Rowling's new novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy. Harry Potter it ain't.

Shakespeare: Staging the world

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For those interested in such things, a minor spat has broken out among some of Britain's best known thespians about whether Will Shakespeare of Stratford was, in fact, the author of the plays attributed to him.

So this exhibition at the British Musuem seems timely. Visitors are invited to walk through a series of themed rooms which explore the relationship between the plays and the world that Shakespeare would have known. Specially commissioned videos of well-known actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies are interspersed among the swords, maps, paintings, bear skulls, witches' charms and other renaissance relics.

Although at £14 it's a bit expensive for those without British Museum membership, there is plenty to enjoy here.

Can Keynes solve the crisis?

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• Keynes argued against cutting workers' wages in a recession and leaving the market to its own devices

• He argued that governments should cut interest rates and directly invest to lift the economy

• But he tailored his solutions to what bosses would accept

The ideas of John Maynard Keynes are back with a vengeance. This has been a consistent theme in the past few years, from the corridors of power to the pages of the Financial Times. After 30 years of deriding Keynes's ideas many are now reconsidering the economic remedies he prescribed.

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