Songs of Ivor Cutler: Slightly Imperfect

21 October, Spiegeltent, HBAF18
By Jess Soutar Barron

This show is the antithesis of clean-cut, sharply-polished, big-sound festival shows. It’s a gem that deserves a full-house. It’s the show you will kick yourself (gently) for missing. Midway through a frantic Festival season when a certain fatigue begins to creep in this is the cure: calm and quiet amidst the bustle.

Performed with great care and love for its muse, Slightly Imperfect brings a collection of the works of Ivor Cutler: Scottish-Jewish, Absurdist-Humourist, and a member of the Noise Abatement Society (Google him, you’ll be a convert).

Greg Malcolm, who at times – and in that hat – looks a lot like Cutler, delivers between-song banter with a professorial tone that is equally amused and in awe of his hero.

Rosie Langabeer is underutilised for she’s a ferocious and multi-talented musician, but seems just chuffed to be part of the show, strapped into her signature piano accordion.

The real star is Jenny Ward, who brings a Kate-Bush-esque element to the delivery (if Kate Bush did children’s birthday parties).

Cutler’s music comes from a barn of pseudo-nursery nonsense that includes Eric and Spike, The Goon Show, Ogden Nash and Edward Lear. Slightly Imperfect presents his works as a kind of performance art with found percussion. Ward playing the tea-cups in Cosmos is a particularly beautiful moment, but she also plays a mean bug jar, an awesome hose pipe and a screaming dual walkie-talkies. Slide whistles, rattles, Tibetan prayer bells and a giggle box all make an appearance. Malcolm plays guitar throughout, and plays it pretty straight…until he lies it on the ground, attaches a slinky to one end, then fires rubber-bands at it. The crowd goes wild.

Ward is bewitching and shows total focus, which is beautiful to watch, particularly as Cutler is the fixation of her partner Malcolm. Surely there’s no greater way to show love than by enacting a sleepy snake with a full-length arm-puppet – OF YOUR OWN MAKING – so as to accompany your partner on his madcap magical musical ride!

Cutler’s music has been called milky-tea psychedelia, and it’s certainly full of love for flowers, trees, little creatures – I Like Mice is a great hit with the audience – and cups of tea. But musically there is something more here, this is surrealist folk, or free folk, jazz-less improvisation. Using domestic objects and repurposing them to bring out sounds that are deeply human, shows music lies within everything, if you just shut up for a bit and listen.

Late on a Sunday, this is the perfect panacea to the busy buzzy business of festival fever.

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