The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Aug 5, 2013
At  the CLF Art Café, The Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15

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 Sassenach 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.’


The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
Presented by the Royal Court and the National Theatre of Scotland

By David Greig
Conceived and devised by David Greig and Wils Wilson


Annie Grace
Melody Grove
Alasdair Macrae
Paul McCole
David McKay

Director: Wils Wilson
Designer: Georgia McGuinness
Composer & Musical Director: Alasdair Macrae
Movement Director: Janice Parker
Casting Director: Anne Henderson

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was first presented at the National Theatre of Scotland in the Victorian Bar of the Tron Theatre, Glasgow on Feb 10, 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 July 12, 2013 and then at the CLF Art Café as part of Royal Court Theatre Local from Aug 5, 2013.

Published on this site, Aug 25, 2018