Dir. Wils Wilson, National Theatre of Scotland, Various Venues, On Tour ‘til 30th March
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a very strange play. Strange in that from its descriptions it sounds like it should be really good but the actual performance is somehow disappointing. The story of an uptight professor, who after being stranded in the snow in Kelso goes on a journey of self-discovery, the play itself is essentially a ballad about ballads. It sounds interesting at first, but the incessant rhyming ballad style language gets very grating, very quickly. If anyone in the audience were to burst out screaming it would be totally understandable. In fact, this urge to scream is understandable for most of the play. There are a few special and atmospheric moments, such as the lights being dimmed and little candles lit on the tables the audience are seated at, but overall the play is exhausting to watch. It really pales in comparison to some of creator David Greig’s other works.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the play so difficult to watch. Maybe it’s that there seems to be no overall message and the storyline keeps twisting off in weird and increasingly more irritating tangents. It feels ridiculous, but not in a particularly funny way. Towards the end, Prudencia says with slow realisation: “there’s no point in any of it, is there?” To which the audience probably agree. In between poignant musings on life and ballads, there are many attempts at humour, most of which just aren’t funny.
On the plus side, the free whiskey is good, the folk band are good and there is a bit of audience participation (always good) in ripping up napkins to make “snow” to fling about when instructed. But overall this play isn’t one to rush out and see unless you really, really love ballads.