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National Theatre of Scotland's

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

September 26

October 28, 2012

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

A World's Stage Production
from Scotland
written by David Greig
directed by Wils Wilson

Critical Acclaim


     Raise your glass to Prudencia Hart! I suspect tickets will sell faster than a kilted piper looking for a space-heater on a chilly night in Chicago. Prudencia Hart is, first and foremost, conceived by its director, Wils Wilson as a witty, ebullient, freeing, bacchanalian night out with friends—or maybe just one friend, who might get fired up by all the ghosts, musical devilry and sensual discoveries going on, maybe right on top of your actual table. The audience is indeed seated pub-style, and Scottish ale flows throughout. This is a kind of shared, warm-spirited storytelling. Superbly smart and dense, the piece is written mostly in rhyming couplets, a formative nod to its themes. It’s very funny in places (‘We would begin with Prudencia’s birth/Or her use of objects to maintain self-worth” or, better yet, ‘Don’t they say at these academic beanos/The best chat happens over cappuccinos?”).


“A marvelous ‘Undoing’ indeed...pure, unadulterated magic! At turns brainy, sexy, hilarious, playfully spooky, richly musical and hugely imaginative, were this show to be bottled as fine distilled whiskey it would be labeled 95 proof and altogether intoxicating. Enter Chicago Shakespeare’s intimate Upstairs space where Prudencia Hart is being performed, and you will think you’ve stumbled into the back room of a pub. The usual seating has been removed, and the audience gathers at refectory tables. A working bar is on one side of the room. At the other is a table for the five hugely gifted actor-musicians who will spin Greig’s contemporary Scottish-gothic tale, periodically accompanying themselves on fiddle, banjo, bagpipes, mandolin, bodrum, spoons and more. Prudencia arrives at a farflung academic conference in the midst of a serious snowstorm. Somewhere into the night, she strikes off on her own and is enticed into a (very Freudian) living nightmare of sorts that finds her seduced by Satan, held hostage for centuries in his massive library, and well, let’s just say this is a ballad writ large and fantastically. Highly recommended.


     You shouldn’t miss this show for the world. The National Theatre of Scotland’s ongoing adventures in popular culture have impressed by avoiding any 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.


     What's really clever about this National Theatre of Scotland production is not just that it is itself a ballad about ballads written in the form of a ballad, rhyming couplets and all...nor is it just its inventive staging, performed in a bar, or its terrific performances by the five-strong cast of actor musicians.

“It's that it gets right to the heart of the Scots' schizophrenic relationship with their own culture which they (I speak as an incomer of some 25 years) love and hate, identify with and deny, in equal measure, often all in the same sentence.

“[David] Greig and [Wils] Wilson fondly embrace all of that and more...”


    In a short review, there’s no decoding all the riches of David Greig’s rollicking text, and the mighty jokes and connections it spins around everything from the state of modern academic life to the music of Kylie Minogue. Let’s just say that the whole story is staged with a terrific, inventive sense of fun...[The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart] is, at its best, more vibrantly, sexily alive than any piece of theatre I’ve seen in Scotland for years...”


    In true ballad fashion, Greig sets [The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart] in verse. Using the kind of cheeky rhyming that can match "plectrum" with "autistic spectrum", he subverts the traditional poetic form with references to Facebook, Asda and bed-and-breakfast jigsaws.

This scores many a laugh in Wils Wilson's rough-and-ready production for the National Theatre of Scotland, which is touring the bar-rooms of Scotland for added authenticity, wild musical outbursts and all...”

 

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