THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART
by David Greig.
CLF Art Café The Bussey Building 133 Rye Lane Peckham SE15 4ST To 9 August 2013
8pmMon-Sat 8pm Mat Thu 3pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 5 August.
A magical experience.
You don’t have to go all the way to Edinburgh to get the full flavour of a heady Celtic night. Thankfully the continuing presence of the Royal Court in south east London has brought one of the National Theatre of Scotland’s greatest recent hits, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart to Peckham’s Bussey building. And what an appropriate setting it proves to be.
The Bussey building is all about community, serving local needs. And here, as you enter their main bar area, crammed with a smattering of tables, it’s as though you’ve walked straight into a Scottish ceilidh and a rough one at that.
A five piece band is playing up a storm on pipes, squeeze-box, fiddle and the rest. Drinks are being served – later sarnies – and a dram of whisky sits atop nearly every table.
It’s warm – particularly so in London, this summer of 2013 – convivial. And mad. Before we know it, a blizzard is blowing, courtesy of torn up paper napkins, and Prudencia, a prim academic and collector of Border Ballads is heading for Kelso and a fictional Border Ballads conference.
What ensues, devised by David Greig and director Wils Wilson is theatrical inventiveness of a wholly infectious kind as Prudencia, trapped in snow drifts and timelessness encounters strange visions, the Devil and in one (of many) deliriously ridiculous moments, is rescued by fellow academic and collector of football chants, Colin Syme, complete in white singlet and boxer shorts.
`There’s only one Colin Syme’, we bellow to the tune of `Guantanamera’. It’s that silly. And it’s that wonderful because Greig and Wilson’s supernatural fantasy, written by Greig in the most accessible of rhyming couplets and free verse carries that rare gift – virtually invisible in Anglo-Saxon theatre – of populism and erudition, wit and intellect.
The cast of actor-musicians is simply stupendous. Humming with energy, they produce moments of pathos, magic, and imaginative wonder (for some bewitchingly irrational reason an Asda car park looms large) in a story that touching on some of the finer points of rhyme and poetic form ends on a simple note of love sung to Kylie Minogue’s `I Can’t Get You Out of My Head.’ Fabulous.
Cast: Annie Grace, Melody Grove, Alasdair Macrae, Paul McCole, David McKay.
Director: Wils Wilson.
Designer: Georgia McGuinness.
Composer/Musical Director: Alasdair Macrae.
Movement: Janice Parker.
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was first presented at the National Theatre Scotland in the Victorian Bar of the Tron Theatre, Glasgow 10 February, 2011. It has since toured to three continents and five countries and was first performed in London at the London Welsh Centre, King’s Cross on 12 July 2013, then at the CLF Art Café as part of Royal Court Theatre Local from 5 August 2013.