Theatre review: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

Ah, Prudencia! Five years on from her first performance, this best-loved and most widely-travelled of all National Theatre of Scotland heroines hits the road in Scotland once more.

Paul McCole, Jessica Hardwick, Annie Grace, David McKay and Alasdair Macrae in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart | Rating: **** | Town Hall, St Andrews

Written by David Greig in fiercely witty rhyming couplets, and directed by Wils Wilson in a style that fits into bar-rooms and village halls from Banchory to Brazil, The Strange Undoing… tells the tale-with-songs of a young academic from Edinburgh who, one snowy night after a conference in Kelso, blunders into one of her own Border Ballads, and ends up spending several millennia in hell.

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With the audience tearing up napkins to make snow, we’re soon drawn into the story, as the blizzard takes hold, and the conference fades into heartless post-structuralist nonsense; but when Prudencia flees into the night – after an extended pub sequence, in what still seems a slightly overlong show – she finds something both more thrilling and much, much worse, in the Borders B&B from hell.

It’s at this point that the show begins to weave itself into a strange erotic game of imprisonment and self-liberation that taxes Wilson’s fine cast of five actor-singer-musicians to the hilt.

The company are well up to the challenge, though; and with the heartbreakingly beautiful, witty and compelling Jessica Hardwick as Prudencia, they whip the show along to its fantastically rousing conclusion, where Kylie merges with ceilidh to create a fierce celebration of post-modern culture, completely of its time, and yet enduringly irresistible.

This week in Aberfeldy, Kirriemuir, Carnoustie, Broughty Ferry and Dundee; and on tour across Scotland until 11 June.