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The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart Review

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
5 stars
The National Theatre of Scotland’s ongoing adventures in popular
culture have impressed thus far by avoiding any sense of artistic
tourism. This latest foray into ad hoc informality finds writer David
Greig and director Wils Wilson going deep into the heart of folk ballad
country to make something which is by turns one of the most
rambunctiously life-affirming and touchingly beautiful reinventions of
its subject.

Designed to be played in spit and sawdust pub function rooms, and
performed here by five actor/musicians in the Tron’s already
atmospheric Victorian Bar, we’re introduced to the shy young folk song
collector of the play’s title who, inbetween doing a PhD on the
topography of Hell, is dispatched to Kelso in 2010’s bleak mid-winter
to deliver an academic paper. Stranded in the snow made here of torn-up
napkins and tinkled wine glasses, Prudencia finds herself caught in the
hurly-burly of supernatural excesses that resemble the musical yarns
she so lovingly tends to.

Greig is fast becoming a master of appropriating old forms for
twenty-first century times, and here he even manages to slip a Karl
Denver tune inbetween Alasdair Macrae’s score as well as his own
waggishly realised rhyming couplets. Yet, by the erotically charged
second half, the tempo of the piece has slowed drastically to something
more intimate, and, as Madeleine Worrall’s Prudencia courts David McKay
and Andy Clark’s lost and lonely devil, downright heart-breaking. When
Prudencia finally takes the floor with a genuine pop classic reinvented
first as haunting lament before morphing into kick-ass hoedown and back
to karaoke stalwart, as with her own getting of wisdom, you shouldn’t
miss this show for the world.

The Herald, February 14th 2011

ends

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