It's 7.30am and the smell of coffee and the warmth of the cup in my hand is helping me face the day. To be honest, I could face today without the coffee since my spirits have been lifted by the early morning news that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been elected the next President of Brazil. His victory heralds a political about-face for Latin America's largest country, after four years of Jair Bolsonaro's far-right administration.
I am writing these notes quickly before I come back down to earth. I have written here before of how the left here in Scotland are often too romantically uncritical of left-wing leaders in South America. Presidents of both the left and right have been equally keen to change the electoral rules so that they can go on and on. The left has been too quick to curb press freedom, silence opposition and clamp down on civil unrest and protest. It has also failed to challenge the socially conservative legacy of the Catholic establishment and the growing influence of reactionary evangelical and Pentecostal groups.
When sections of the left welcomed the election of Castillo in Peru, they seem prepared to gloss over his opposition to all abortion, LGBT+ rights, equal marriage and gender equality. For a government to earn the name 'progressive' it should be socially liberal, open to sexual difference, women's rights, different ideas of governance, different perceptions of social property and the market, and focused on a just transition to a green economy.
The election of Gabriel Boric in Chile and now the return of Lula in Brazil could be just the change South America is crying out for. I'm sure my elation will come down a notch or two in the passing days but I refuse to be cynical about the defeat of someone who made Trump look positively moderate.
One of the heroes of my student days was Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire. We would do well to remember his words: 'Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral'.
Douglas Henshall could, I suppose, have become the next Brenda Blethyn, given that his career too has received a boost from playing an Anne Cleves creation. Blethyn as Vera
is the oldest police officer in the world and has acquired in 'Pet' her very own catch phrase, one on a par with the likes of 'Can I do you now?'
But back to Henshall ,who has decided otherwise and quit Shetland
, the detective drama set on the islands based on books by Cleves, where the crime rate rivals that of Midsomer. Of his decision to leave the role of Jimmy Perez, which he assumed in 2013, he said that while he and the screen writer David Kane would have carried on for another couple of series winding up Jimmy Perez's story, the BBC wanted to keep Shetland
Ten years was a very long chunk of time. In the immediate term ,it is back to the London stage which he has graced in the past, although Google him and he is listed quite firmly as 'TV actor'. He is now appearing at the Hampstead Theatre, maybe not the West End but a prestige booking all the same, in Mary
by Rona Munro – a 90-minute piece about Mary Queen of Scots. Munro is celebrated for her James
plays of which this is the sixth instalment. Mary never actually appears in it and the action focuses on what happened after the murder of Darnley and what Bothwell got up to after he abducted her.
Henshall plays Sir James Melville, one of her supporters, confronted with the reality of the situation as he was there when it all started. He gives a fine performance, although at times a little soft spoken, of a good man forced to do something he feels is wrong. He has to cope with a young courtier from the anti-Mary faction headed by the Regent Moray, which is intent on keeping her out of power, and a young woman Calvinist who opposes her Catholicism.
Directed by Roxana Silbert, Hampstead's artistic director, this splendid play makes for an evening full of stimulating arguments and the perfect vehicle for showing that Henshall's range is far wider than playing a TV detective. It also has a startling and hugely effective surprise ending.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com