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THE OPENING night of top-drawer literary festival Archway With Words hosted a scratch reading of Ivor Cutler’s previously unstaged play The Fleas, which was sent to actor Bill Patterson in 1978. He was a friend of Cutler and says that he saw him as “a sort of Scottish actor who can get things done.”
Cutler is a cult figure —“he was all meat and no potatoes,” Robert Wyatt has said of him — known for drawing white chalk circles around dogs’ doings on Holloway Road and his songs, radio performances and poetry are all a quirky joy.
The night opened with Patterson reading several of Cutler’s poems and the latter’s distinct voice was caught well in Patterson’s unique timbre. The play itself was fleeting — biting and fun — with Patterson reading stage directions as three actors read their parts.
It was a delight, as ever, to see Peyvand Sadeghian on stage. She’s fast becoming a Miriam Karlin we deserve — cockney, funny, focused and a distinctive turn.
Set in an office, The Fleas opens with talk of breakfast and there is much ado about kippers as Cutler’s joy in language and the beauty of banality turns normal events into a circus.
When it ends, the stage directions say that it will now be repeated but with all the genders and language switching. A throwaway 1978 joke making a 2019 point in an amusing aside, no chalk was needed for this performance and the packed house was, rightly, delighted.
Archway with Words runs until September 21, details: archwaywithwords.com
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