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After ‘Sleep No More’ Comes a Sexy Scottish Devil: Review of ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’

Excessive within the McKittrick Lodge on Manhattan’s far West Facet, a brand new, extra contained wonderland has taken root just a few flooring up from the kinetic, watch-where-you’re-stepping drama of Sleep No Extra the place one mistaken transfer can have you ever felled by a witch in a rush.
The viewers for The Unusual Undoing of Prudencia Hart—written by David Greig and directed by Wils Wilson for the Nationwide Theatre of Scotland—sits in a room filled with bar tables.
We change into the pub the place Prudencia Hart finds herself one wintry evening within the Scottish Borders. Certainly, you’ll be able to think about, thick snow throughout, alighting upon a pub and listening to a narrative as wild and ridiculous because the one which unfolds round Prudencia in 2010.

As they inform and sing the story, the 5 good performers—Annie Grace, Melody Grove, Peter Hannah, Paul McCole, and Alasdair MacRae—rove across the tables, often draping themselves over members of the general public, standing on chairs, sidling towards the bar itself, and utilizing the entire span of the room to convey the pub, a dry educational convention, or darkish, snowy fields.
The shy shouldn’t fear an excessive amount of: The extent of public participation isn’t too excessive. The very first thing we’re requested to do—by the good-looking Hannah, wearing waistcoat and tight white trousers—is to tear up some napkins to make flakes of snow, able to be discharged into the air on the proper second.
After which by ballad and thru meticulously crafted, witty couplets, the performers information us into the story of how Prudencia, an educational attending a convention in Kelso that solely teachers might craft or bear—named “Border Ballads: Neither Border Nor Ballad?”—ended up within the clutches of the Satan.
And so a ballad is informed by ballad, within the course of deconstructing the whimsies and absurdities of the ballad.
As Prudencia drives by way of the snow, she thinks: “That is precisely the type of snow that if it had been in a border ballad would poetically presage some type of doom for an harmless heroine or an encounter on the moor with a sprite or villain or the shedding of the heroine’s selfhood within the nice white vacancy of the evening.”

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The present is many issues: satirical, absurd, a literary parlor recreation, a loopy surf via folkloric historical past, and a wild and celebratory slice of storytelling-as-art. From Scottish-tinged humor to a mockery of educational pursuits, acquainted soccer chants, and a deification of Kylie Minogue, it raised the heartiest stomach laughs from tables containing Scots or Brits or each (particularly these viewers members who studied English and Scots literature at Aberdeen College—no names).
If American guests appeared a bit of extra baffled at sure moments, they appeared fortunately so. Your capability to embrace this present will rely in your capability for absurdity, wild silliness, and literary in-jokes. Free photographs of whiskey might assist.
On the convention we see an educational named Siolaigha (“That Celtic title which so endeared her/Was only a poncy approach of spelling Sheila”), and barely hidden frustrations (“Placing ‘Scottish’ in air quote/Made Prudencia need to punch him within the throat”).
It’s vital, given what occurs to her later, that Prudencia is requested concerning the ballad of Tam Lin, because the wrestle and destiny of the heroine in that 16th century folktale will carefully mirror Prudencia’s kidnap and tried escape from the Satan, who in modern-day can also tackle many types.
The in a position, endlessly versatile guiding musical arms belong to the graceful voices and in a position folk-meets-pop instrumentation of Grace and Macrae. Prudencia is superbly performed by Grove, her bearing familiarly educational till her circumstances change into extra determined, and she or he finds herself toying with an attraction to the Satan.
McCole is the present’s unlikely hero. His Dr. Colin Syme is a brash, karaoke-loving, motorbike-riding educational—each hopelessly useless (“Dr. Colin Syme blokeish—obsessed together with his equipment/He’d eat himself if he was a biscuit”), and hopelessly dedicated to Pru, even when he’s dismissively impolite at the beginning about her being a fuddy-duddy.

Prudencia’s cellphone, Colin groans on studying, is ready to a “center class” vibrate. Nonetheless, they get wasted on the pub, which Prudencia recollects of the drunken hello and low jinx (and James Blunt song-singing), “was like one thing out of Breughel.”
The perils of bodily reside efficiency meant poor McCole was additionally abused even past what he was anticipating the night time our viewers noticed it (bravely grimacing and swearing as a unadorned flame got here too near his palm), the remainder of the corporate nearly managing to splutter their traces via laughter.
The, sure, devilishly attractive Hannah performs the Satan, at first showing as a secure haven for the snowbound Prudencia, after which—as soon as in his clutches—a malevolent jailer, whose model of hell spans millennia, and who scoops up Prudencia on the night time of the Satan’s Ceilidh, a “dance or get together hosted by Devil and reputed to be held at precisely midnight on the winter solstice,” we be taught. However perhaps he and the tutorial are good for one another too.
The present’s many jokes stream from the supply of the couplets. One character might inform a portion of story, for one more to interject with a waspish payoff. “And right here was an essential likelihood to inform/Her colleagues her new idea of hell’s/Inherent interiority in people discourses/And she or he supposed, a lunch with at the very least three programs.”
The ingenuity of the rhymes is scrumptious: “With that he took out his fancy cell phone/And Prudencia thought—I might need identified/He’s all the time received the hottest crap/A Mattress and Breakfast discovering app!”
And, my favourite: “Oh Colin beneath your bluster and bravado/Beats the guts of a bewildered wee pupil/Sitting at a window one scorching day in summer season/Dreaming of the woman he noticed on the Proclaimers gig.”
The photographs of whiskey (and sandwiches handed out in the course of the interval) undoubtedly helped our already-smitten viewers imagine within the present’s time-traveling, or think about the wasteland of a Costco car-park freshly endowed with a perversely beautiful magic.
The sheer vitality of the performers is all-enveloping. Prudencia’s valiant effort to flee the Satan’s clutches appears as absurd as you would possibly count on, however nonetheless we heartily sang and inspired her to do exactly that. It takes nice talent to be this foolish, and to do it with such coronary heart and relish. Someplace Robert Burns is chuckling, and tearing a serviette into 100 fluttery items.

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