WRITING a play in homage to a man ‘never knowingly understood’ was never going to be an easy task.
Scottish-born poet, songwriter and genre-defying wit Ivor Cutler’s work is bizarre, obtuse, absurd — and, let’s face it, that’s just why his many fans like it.
The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler — a collaboration between Vanishing Point and the National Theatre of Scotland — delivers, for the most part, bringing to life Cutler’s musings in delightfully weird and wonderful fashion.
The show begins with writer and performer Sandy Grierson (as himself) approaching Cutler’s companion Phyllis King, in order to get to grips with the man under all those hats.
As Phyllis (played by Elicia Daly) begins to trust Grierson, he’s able to slip into the character of Cutler, taking the audience through a Glasgow boyhood, moving to London and eventual success by touting those magical — and at times, morose — songs.
Grierson’s portrayal of Ivor Cutler is a triumph, as he captures the distinctive voice perfectly and employs all the mannerisms of the renowned eccentric (despite being head and shoulders taller than the late, great man), making an abrupt jump to Ivor’s death, in 2006, all the more heartbreaking to watch.
The backing band take centre stage throughout, jumping in and out of supporting roles (including an impression of Paul McCartney which brings the house down), and the result is a well-rounded piece of theatre that’s both chaotic and ever-changing — yet at the same time putting Cutler’s brilliant songs into a biographical context, and bringing an order to his life and work.
It’s for that reason that it’s hard to imagine what Ivor’s reaction to this touching tribute would be. Is it possible to take such an eccentric and explain him? And does The Beautiful Cosmos even try, or is it just a celebration of a man who marched to his own beat?
Questions best left to the audience — but regardless, The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler is a charming tribute to a big personality, and does full justice to Ivor’s well-loved words.
The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler runs at the Citizens Theatre until April 19 (before moving on to Greenock, Stirling and Edinburgh). Tickets are £8-£19.50, from 429 0022 or www.citz.co.uk.