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Scotland celebrates glorious eccentric Ivor Cutler

Cutler with Paul McCartney who invited him to appear in Magical Mystery Tour. Picture: Getty

Cutler with Paul McCartney who invited him to appear in Magical Mystery Tour. Picture: Getty

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON AND FREYA FINDLAY
 

HE is one of Scotland’s most eccentric wordsmiths, whose songs and poetry were feted by the likes of John Peel, The Beatles, Billy Connolly and Johnny Rotten.

Now Ivor Cutler’s maverick musical legacy, which famously featured on the BBC over a remarkable six decades, is set to be celebrated in his home country in the form of a major new stage show.

The National Theatre of Scotland has revealed that the first ever theatrical adaptation of his work will be one of its flagship productions in 2014.

Glasgow-born Cutler, a former RAF navigator who left Scotland to pursue a career in teaching - which he juggled for 30 years with his musical exploits - is to be honoured with the musical-theatre show eight years after his death at the age of 83.

To be jointly produced with Glasgow-based theatre company Vanishing Point, The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler is described as a musical and visual journey inspired by “the songs, stories and poems of one of Scotland’s most iconic exiles.”

The stage show, which will be part of a year-long exploration of Scotland’s cultural identity by the theatre company, opens at the Eden Court Theatre, in Inverness, in April, before going on tour to Glasgow, Greenock, Stirling and Edinburgh.

It is one of the highlights of the programme for the first six months of the year confirmed by NTS, which will be reviving some of its most popular productions of recent years at home and abroad.

These include its sequel to Macbeth, Dunsinane, which will be heading to the Far East, Glasgow Girls, its acclaimed show inspired by the teenage campaign on the plight of aylum seekers which will be returning to its roots in the city, and Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit, the Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, which will be heading to North America next month.

An extensive tour has also been revealed for Rantin’, a major new production tackling issues around Scotland’s national identity - one of two flagship productions NTS has confirmed for the run-up to the independence referendum.

The Cutler theatre production is expected to spark a fresh wave of interest in the late musician, whose songs were used in a new Scottish Ballet show, Off Kilter, three years ago.

The musician, whose often surreal sense of humour won him a cult following, was said to have a love-hate relationship with Scotland. Cutler, who studied teaching at Jordanhill, in Glasgow and also took painting classes at Glasgow School of Art, moved south in 1950 and was to eventually settle in North London.

He started writing songs in the late 1950s and despite some poorly-received pub gigs, he quickly found favour with the BBC, making his debut on the Home Service.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon invited Cutler to appear in their 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour and one of his albums, Ludo, was produced by the celebrated Beatles collaborator George Martin. Other albums included Who Tore Your Trousers?, Velvet Donkey, Life in a Scotch Sitting Room and Jammy Smears and he recorded more than 20 sessions for Radio 1 DJ John Peel, one of his biggest supporters.

He continued to perform until just two years before his death, making several appearances at the Meltdown Festival in London.

Laurie Sansom, artist director at NTS said: “Our programme for 2014 will celebrate Scotland and examine Scottish cultural identity at a remarkable moment in time for the country, and I’m delighted that Ivor Cutler’s weird and wonderful world view will be included in the season.

“Vanishing Point are ideally placed to transform Cutler’s artistry and fantastical world into a hugely entertaining piece of music-theatre for audiences across Scotland.”

Matthew Lenton, artistic director of Vanishing Point, said: “We have been flirting with Ivor Cutler for some time now, ever since we first met him among the pages of Life in a Scotch Sitting Room. We spent a bit of time together and got to like each other. Finally we plucked up the courage to propose and he said yes. We’re sure the marriage will be a happy one.”

His best lines

1 1 Shop lifters, shop lifters,

Is your shop right down on the ground?

Then let us lift it, lift it for you,

There’s plenty of room in the blue,

For your shop and for you

‘Shoplifters’

2 I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy

I’m going to punch the man who says I’m not

‘I’m Happy’

Good morning. How are you? Shut up!

Don’t give me the small talk, give me the big talk.

A million, million and six, oh I love that big talk!

Give me some more

3 ‘I need nothing

I have everything I need

I lie upon the coffin a doughnut in my hand’

4 ‘The veins stood out on her angry temples like wormcasts’

5 ‘How do you know you’re a girl?

I’m wearing a frock.

And if you take it off?

I get cold, so I put it back on.

If I was a boy, I don’t know what I’d do.”

6 “Voiding bowels in those days was unheard of. People just kept it in,” commenting on the spartan life of Scots during his childhood.

From Shanghai to a living room near you – NTS’s 2014 highlights revealed

National Theatre of Scotland 2014 highlights

• The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart North America January-February David Greig’s supernatural pub lock-in night has been touring almost constantly since its acclaimed 2011 debut.

• A Little Bird Blown Off Course Celtic Connections January-February A revival of a hit show from the Blast festival in the Highlands, celebrating the work of the Pittsburgh-born folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw and the archive of Hebridean culture she assembled.

• Rantin’ touring across Scotland January-March Playwright and performer Kieran Hurley’s “cosy living room gathering, part play, part gig session” will be adapted for each location it visits.

• Glasgow Girls Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow February-March The modern Scottish musical inspired by the real-life award-winning campaign triggered by the treatment of asylum seekers returns for the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.

• Dunsinane Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan April-May The joint production with the Royal Shakespeare Company – another of Greig’s big hits in recent years – marks the first major tour of East Asia for NTS.

• The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler touring across Scotland April-May The first theatrical production inspired by Cutler’s back catalogue will see NTS join forces with multi-media theatre gurus Vanishing Point.

• The Tin Forest South Rotunda, Clydeside July-August The South Rotunda will be transformed into a pop-up arts centre celebrating the city’s industrial heritage.

 

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