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Joyce McMillan on The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart at the Victorian Bar, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

// Dec 14,2012

4 stars ****

As the Devil points out halfway through the evening, there is no peace for the wicked. Down you go to your local pub, and who should be there but the National Theatre of Scotland, in the shape of a touring company of five terrific actor-musicians, led by the gorgeous Madeleine Worrall and an inspired Andy Clark. They start rearranging tables, playing daft games, getting you to rip up your paper napkins to create an impromptu snowstorm; and then we’re off, into the thrilling, shuddering gallop through the landscape of ancient and post-modern Scotland that is this new ballad drama by playwright David Greig, with director Wils Wilson.

The heroine of the story, Prudencia Hart, is a smart young academic at the School of Scottish Studies who specialises in the mighty, sexy, elemental tradition of the Border Ballads. Snowed in at a conference in Kelso with an annoying colleague called Colin Syme, she ends up in the local pub, where folk night morphs into a disturbing, booze-fuelled karaoke nightmare; and a strange, seductive man suddenly appears, to escort her to what turns out – literally – to be the b&b from hell.

In a short review, there’s no decoding all the riches of David Greig’s rollicking text, and the mighty jokes and connections it spins around everything from the state of modern academic life to the music of Kylie Minogue. Let’s just say that the whole story is staged with a terrific, inventive sense of fun; and that even if some sequences are too long and the verse sometimes slides towards doggerel, it is, at its best, more vibrantly, sexily alive than any piece of theatre I’ve seen in Scotland for years. Some people don’t get it about our new National Theatre; they want it in a mausoleum, rather than down the pub. But if you want to understand in your flesh and blood what the NTS is all about, then this is the show to see; as it tours from Berwick to Ullapool, over the next few weeks.

Originally posted on Joyce McMillan – Online.