City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Ghillie Dhu, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 22 February 2011

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
Show Details
Ghillie Dhu
National Theatre of Scotland
David Greig (writer), Wils Wilson (director), Georgia McGUiness (designer), Alasdair Macrae (musical director), Janice Parker (movement director), Heather Wilson (company stage manager), Liz Smith (marketing), Kate Cattell (tour manager), Janice Burgos and Katie Lonsdale (wardrobe assistants)
Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Alasdair Macrae, David McKay, Madelaine Worall
Running time: 

There is an air of a medieval banqueting hall at Ghillie Dhu, with its candled chandeliers, pillars and arches, the venue for the Edinburgh leg of the National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, “a cautionary tale for a cold winter’s night”.

The other four venues on the tour are the Victorian Bar, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Owen’s Bar, Coatbridge, The Maltings, Berwick on Tweed and The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool which exemplifies the NTS ability to take quality theatre to diverse and unconventional  locations around the country. These are challenging and demanding undertakings as the choreography, ably done by Janice Parker, must have to be flexible to accommodate the varied environments.

The five actors, who are literally travelling players and look the part as they move easily among the audience, are also accomplished musicians, warming up the evening with Scots tunes and a fine steady stomping version of the Twa Corbies, that set the tone for the Border setting of this rhymed and fertile imaginative writing.

This highly comic and radical piece tells the story of a buttoned–up Prudencia Hart (Madeleine Worall) who is looking for the authenticity of the Border Ballads by going to a Kelso folk club with fellow academic, the raucous and sceptic, Colin Sime (Andy Clark). However, she only finds Dylan songs and an after hours karaoke session, the Devil’s Ceilidh, where a cross dressing band, the Four Corbies, are in to sex, drugs, and various allsorts, as they cavort around like Alloway’s witches.

It is midwinter’s night and the deil’s abroad in the guise of Nick, a local B & B landlord (David McKay) who entices Prudencia to his premises, where she has to stay for eternity as there are no trains in the snowbound Borders. (!) Nick has acres of books - every one ever written, and yet to be written, along with a rare collection of vinyl, which doesn’t seem like Hell for an eager academic like Prudencia, and her time there seems to whizz past as her theories about the Borders are proven right after years, nae centuries, of study. She thinks she is in paradise, not knowing he is a collector of souls as well as books but as the text points out, even love is made Hell by immortality.

Nick, in all his forms (Andy Clark and David McKay) develops closeness with Prudencia that runs counter to his world view. (Well, he was an Angel once.) The rhyming element has gone in Hell and her step on the road to Nick’s seduction is to invite him to get lost in words and “Come rhyme with me”. 

In slow sensual movement to harmonium and fiddle, she reminds him that it’s not what lovers do but “...what lovers are undoing...” that matters. 

Eventually escaping through a gap in time, much like how she entered, she returns to the Asda car park in Kelso and ends up less buttoned up as she gives an apt and tender version of ‘the Devil’s Kylie’ , Can’t Get you Out of my Head .

There is an age guide of 14+ and a warning of no liability for the possible “...losing or ... [the] very self during the performance”. We were warned! 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and convivial evening which, even if not for the faint hearted, was lapped up by the thoroughly engaged audience on Monday night. It was  fast moving, funny , a “...lock-in with a difference ...” where you were not only enthralled by great lines, inventiveness  of presentation and costume and the informality of this close up acting but had the lovely surprise of wee triangular sandwiches being handed out at the interval! Terrific performances all round in this unusual and rounded piece.

Show times

Monday 21– Tuesday 22 Feb, 7.30pm, £12/£10

Ceilidh Place, Ullapool
Friday 25 – Sat 26 Feb at 19.30, £10/£8

Tour already been in Glasgow, Coatbridge, and Berwick-upon-Tweed