MENTION Ivor Cutler to someone over the age of 40 and the response is usually, “Oh, I remember listening to him years ago.” Since his death in 2006 there’s still that strong cult following.
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But he seems like an odd choice of character to base a musical on. His deadpan delivery and gloomy voice was an acquired taste – something that doesn’t normally meet the high theatrical standards of musicals. But thenagain, why shouldn’t he? He’s one of Scotland’s most unique artists, unlike anyone else, and his legacy can still be seen within Scotland’s music scene today.
Co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, Beautiful Cosmos is a journey based around the songs, poems and stories from this rare talent. Director Matthew Lenton and the Vanishing Point theatre team have a lot of love and energy when opening the window into the bizarre and dreamlike mind of Cutler.
The show incorporates several elements: writer/actor Sandy Grierson’s meetings with Cutler’s widow and collaborator, Phyllis King (brilliantly played with great delicacy by Elicia Daly). There’s also recreated moments from Cutler’s life, readings from some of his writings and covers of his songs by the show’s musical director James Fortune.
Grierson’s performance as Cutler has a special way of connecting all these strands. He throws us into the diverse world of this weird and wonderful individual. Despite a few technical glitches, and almost cutting his finger off with a pair of scissors, Grierson shows great skill at keeping within the mindset of this challenging eccentric. In among some strangely obscure instruments, Grierson’s backing band also show an array of musically gifted artists. Ed Gaughan has a great comic flare when jumping between the group and playing a series of oddball characters from Cutler’s past.
Beautiful Cosmos speaks volume of Cutler’s creativity – a funny and an insightful resurrection into one of Scotland’s most creative geniuses.
• Run ends Saturday.