Take the strangest supernatural storytelling you've ever heard, add some Scottish border ballads, then mix in a few devilish encounters—and you have got National Theatre of Scotland's inventive, rollicking tale of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. Uptight academic Prudencia's dream-like journey of self-discovery is a Faustian tale, that unfolds among and around the audience in this music-filled romp of rhyming couplets and wild karaoke, which The Herald's five-star review raved is "rambunctiously life-affirming and touchingly beautiful."
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes intermission)
International programming at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
is supported, in part, by the Julius Frankel Foundation.
Writer David Greig, director Wils Wilson and composer Alasdair Macrae spent a weekend in an old pub in Kelso in the Scottish Borders researching the Border Ballads for the show. It was the coldest winter for many years and maybe it was the unique atmosphere in the pub that night or maybe it was the knee deep snow outside, but no one wanted the evening to end, so at midnight the Landlord locked the doors and they found themselves in a lock-in.
Deep in the wee hours, one old man told a story about another group of people who'd come to look for songs a few years back and of how one of them, a woman, had never after been seen again. It was a story, which he said was 'one hundred and ten percent true' a story of love, of music and of the Devil. It was the story of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart and it is that tale that will be told to you, if you have the nerve to hear it.
28-year-old Prudencia Hart is a collector of folk songs, an academic, who has devoted her life to the study of folk material. On the night of the village fete she came to town to collect song material for her thesis Paradigms of Emotional Contact in The Performance and Text of Traditional Folk Song in Scotland 1572–1798. She gets caught up in a lock-in with a bunch of locals and that's when she hears of the existence of a song beyond song... the original song... the uncollected song... the song of undoing and sets out to find it. What Prudencia doesn't know is that the song of undoing belongs to the devil. The wild journey through the night takes her, into and out of different supernatural and natural realms always looking for the song until finally—she discovers it—and is undone. She returns to the pub... where... in the last and culminating act of the lock in ceilidh–she sings the song of her own undoing.
It is a spell binding and intimate experience for the audience as they are part of the performance, with the actors right next to them, sometimes sitting at their table, and they could be called upon to be involved in the action while the show happens all around them. Music and song are major elements, so on occasions the audience join in with the singing and dancing—but sometimes they just sit and watch—like a conventional audience.
National Theatre of Scotland cannot be held responsible in the event of any member of the audience losing their head, their heart or their very self during the course of the performance.