Better the devil you know

Prudencia Hart
Prudencia Hart

IMAGINE, if you will, a lock-in at some riotous Maryhill boozer, with tipsy old crones on the karaoke and Jack Daniels and coke flowing.

For some, it’s heaven; for others, hell — literally, in the case of Prudencia Hart.

National Theatre of Scotland production The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart has returned from a successful American tour, and is tackling home turf crowds once again.

Prudencia arrived at Maryhill Burgh Halls on Friday, and will return in a few weeks time as part of a national tour taking in village halls and pubs for the lock-in to end all lock-ins.

It’s a site specific piece, putting the audience at the heart of the action as fellow pubgoers (there’s even a dram on offer to get you in the spirit).

As for the story, it’s a loving tribute to the Scottish ballad told in playful rhyming couplets and traditional song, as uptight academic Prudencia sets out for a conference in Kelso – but this being that chilly winter of 2010, our heroine is soon snowed in with a fun-loving colleague (the one and only Colin Syme — be sure to remember that name) and the village harpies (or corbies).

Debauchery among the locals holds no appeal for our ballad-loving lass, and she sets out to find a B&B instead — but the landlord is, well, a fiery sort...

The show takes place amongst the audience (and even on the tables — mind your drinks now) and the result is a chaotic piece of theatre which immerses you wholly, inviting you in with a hug and hearty handshake.

Whether it’s recreating the weather or joining the plucky heroes in a battle of wits against Auld Nick, the audience is as responsible for the conclusion as the actors, all in touching homage to Scottish storytelling traditions.

Still, Prudencia Hart wouldn’t be where it is without the five-strong cast, and Annie Grace, Melody Grove, Alasdair Macrae, Paul McCole and David McKay give it their all, enjoying the chaos almost as much as the audience around them.

Paul McCole in particular shines as the cocky colleague turned knight in shining armour, and is willing to go the whole hog at all times to keep the room howling, while Scottish stage veteran David McKay slips from character to character smoother than a sip of that complimentary Benromach whisky.

This is one NTS production which proves both the company’s and writer David Greig’s storytelling skills, and stands as a shining example of modern Scottish theatre by nodding to the traditions of old.

Prudencia Hart will capture your heart and imagination, follow you home and leave you begging for more — just pray that she doesn’t bring the devil himself with her.