Written & Co-Created by David Greig
Directed & Co-Created by Wils Wilson
We struggle with an identity in Scotland, though most wouldn’t admit it. A visage of ancient myth, refuting a heritage and resigning firelit pubs, ballads, and stories to nostalgic tourist traps. Where we sit on the cutting edge of technology but cannot, and should not, escape our attachment to folklore, storytelling and embracing something a little dangerous.
Romanticised nostalgia is a treacherous but alluring poison. It’s the stuff of folk tales, ballads, and scriptures – where unrequited love sits side by side with tales of ghouls, spectres, demons, and knights. And for Prudencia Hart, these texts and tales are her life. A life dedicated to sourcing unsung songs and distant memories which perch upon the edge of obscurity,
And the gathering academics who agree with this notion find themselves in, of all places, Kelso. Likely as it still exists in these nostalgic realms. The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a welcome return from The National Theatre Scotland, an authentic enterprise of folk music, unhinged passion, and a haunting, unearthly serious of events. Take this chance, seize the moment and snatch at the opportunity to catch a fleeting production not to be missed.
The night is young, and the local pub is having karaoke. Oh, what fun. Trapped in Kelso in a freak snowstorm, Prudencia and her meme and tech-savvy colleague Colin (Ewan Black) take refuge in the local drinkery. Guests this evening have already found themselves on the backfoot at the Playfair Library. As the venue becomes the stage, every table, surface, and sculpture at some point is influenced by the players of this story. From the open bar to the napkins and coasters – nothing here can be trusted. But everything can be enjoyed.
As the night works on, Prudencia wanders into the darkness to escape the drunken corbies, to escape her colleagues, to escape something stirring inside her. Rarely does the evolution of a character take hold so effectively, then with Charlene Boyd’s Prudencia over the course of the production, where we see both a visceral and intense physical and emotional transformation and opening to the world around her?
Finding herself on the precipice where magic and modernity clash, Prudencia struggles with the coldness of it all – a world which seems to have abandoned beauty for instant gratification. But where sentimentality lingers, it stirs a scent, like blood in the water, for the most dangerous predator of all. Joining Boyd is a cast of rogues and songbirds who perform a marvellous job of crafting stage magic away from the traditional theatre local; with superb vocals from Natali McCleary and musical director Alasdair Macrae.
Bouncing, trouncing, and bombastic theatre in a height of storytelling perfection. Telling a story in this manner is nothing new, but co-creators Wils Wilson and David Greig have crafted a rare gem of storytelling, performed to the highest of qualities allowing the musicality of the piece to become unshackled and tear its way, unfettered, to awaiting audiences.
Let’s spare some sympathy for the devil, shall we? Gavin Jon Wright turning in an at first subtle, and playful lord of the damned, an excellent equal to Prudencia’s cunning and sharp mind. Rarely does a show do so much in so little time and feel quite so accomplished. If there’s one venture to undertake at this year’s Festival Fringe: it’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart.
And while we cannot endorse selling your soul for a ticket, we do know a buyer…
‘Take this chance’
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart runs at the Playfair Library, in association with The Lyceum until August 28th
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Ryan Buchanan