The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Playfair Library, Review

Submitted by Erin Roche on Wed, 17 Aug '22 9.02pm
Charlene Boyd in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart 2022
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Double M Arts and Events
Writer & co-creator David Greig
Director & Co-creator Wils Wilson
Original Design Georgia McGuinness
Associate Designer Alex Berry
Musical Director Alasdair Macrae
Movement Director Janice Parker
Assistant Movement Director Jenna Corker
Associate Director Andrea Cabrera Luna
Producer Neil Murray and Michael Mushalla for Double M Arts & Events
Casting Director Laura Donnelly CDG
Ewan Black (Colin Syme), Charlene Boyd (Prudencia Hart), Alasdair Macrae (Performing Musical Director), Natali McCleary (Siolaigha/Ensemble), Gavin Jon Wright (The Devil/Ensemble)
Running time

Set under the high vaulted ceiling of the ornate Playfair Library, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a theatrical wonder that will change your life. 

With a level of quirkiness usually reserved for a Wes Anderson flick, we see jellied eels atop the bar, playful but considerate audience interaction and a fair bit of tinsel adorning the necks of the austere busts perched around this grandiose Old College hall. Site-specific and wildly immersive, it begins with the audience, sat together at cabaret tables, ripping up napkins to make little piles of snow. Cue intrigue. 

On a wintry day in Kelso, buttoned-up, aptly-named Prudencia Hart travels to a conference where she will speak on her particular niche of academic expertise: Scottish folklore, more specifically, hell. There she meets a modernist to her traditionalist, a man in jeans and a motorbike helmet where she dons a vintage cloak and stag brooch. After a disappointing public speaking display and realising the snow has piled up too high for her to drive on home, Prudencia is whisked away to a local pub, where her uptightness forces her onto a (devil’s) fork in the road. Will she, in her own life, reject the adventure found within the pages of her beloved folk tales, or will she be forced to let hedonism unravel every inhibition that keeps romance at a distance?

The Prudencia Charlene Boyd (The Macbeths, The Monstrous Heart) has created is bold and beguiling, truly enchanting all who watch her disentangling, while the portrayal of The Devil by Gavin Jon Wright (Square Go, Trainspotting) is intoxicating with a fervour bubbling beneath his mostly stoic exterior. Natali McCleary leads the group in haunting vocals, ticking on beneath the ensemble like a metronome atop a grand piano, purposeful and strong. The entire ensemble draws in the gaze of every guest in the room, from original folk music full of rousing, harmony-filled chorus to trading of scintillating rhymes.

Wrapped in Scottish-lipped poetry, stunning prose and a heap of magical realism, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is an enthrallingly whimsical, cosy yet gripping, dark and sultry Borders ballad folk tale.

Too special to capture in words, David Greig and Wils Wilson’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is easily one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen. If you see anything this Fringe, or this year, in fact, see this.


The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart tickets: here

Aug 18-21, 23-28 | Times vary

Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)