When most of the cast are on the stage ten minutes before the play is due to begin and before most of the audience have taken their seat, and are having an “impromptu” session playing Scottish folk ballads, then you know that you are not in for a routine evening at the theatre. And so it proved with the New Vic’s production of “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” which had its press night on Tuesday.
David Greig wrote the play in 2010 and it had its first production in the Victoria Bar of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow in 2011, though I would not at all have been surprised to find out that it had originally been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as it has that sort of feel about it.
The play draws heavily on Scottish folklore and the stories of the borderlands, the subject of the conference that Prudencia is attending.
The play tells the story of Prudencia Hart, (Suni La) a rather repressed young academic who has arrived in Kelso in the Scottish Borders to attend an academic conference. When a snow storm means that she has to stay in the town for the night she is forced into the company of her fellow academics, Professor Macintosh ( Eleanor House) and particularly Colin Sime ( Matthew McVarish), a man who loves himself so much that “ if he were a biscuit he would eat himself”.
When Prudencia leaves the pub in the town to find her B & B for the night she gets lost in the snow and meets a strange woman on the local estate (Alice Blundell) who invites her to stay at her house.
Instead, Prudencia keeps walking and meets the even stranger Nick ( David Fairs) and that is where things take a very strange twist……
Music intersperses the whole production with everything from Scottish ballads, to Kylie, to football chants and the level of musicianship from the whole cast is fantastic. However their attempts at getting the audience to join in with the music were not wholly successful.
As usual at the New Vic the design of the production is excellent with clever lighting, sound and stage design. This cannot have been an easy production to design and yet the end result is highly successful.
As a play this is certainly not a run of the mill evening. On Tuesday a large part of the audience gave the cast a standing ovation at the final curtain, however the play is so unusual in its form, complete with sections written in rhyming couplets, that is not a play that will be to everyone’s taste. As entertainment, however, it is first class and well worth a visit.
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” runs at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday July 13th.
Telephone the box office for tickets on 01782 717962 or email firstname.lastname@example.org