The play follows scholar Prudencia Hart across Scotland to a conference on a snowy December day and into the night of the winter solstice. The conference takes place in Kelso, a town in the Scottish borderland. The buttoned-up Hart is a traditionalist who collects ballads, not to deconstruct them like the rest of her colleagues, but to preserve them.
“I don’t study [ballads] to diminish them,” she says to herself at one point.
Like “The Conference of the Birds” and “My Fair Lady,” “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is another tale of self-discovery and self-reflection.
Like “The Conference of the Birds,” this play is a poem, and it’s told as a ballad. It is about journeying through perilous lands — in this case, Prudencia must literally go through hell.
As in “My Fair Lady,” Prudencia’s journey is marked by a professorial relationship with a devilish man, but she must break free in order to discover her voice, literally her song.
The production is staged in a pub and the action takes place all around the audience. Director Wils Wilson, playwright David Greig and composer (and fabulous mustachioed actor) Alasdair Macrae have created a wonderful experience that should be stretched out as long as possible.
The pub opens an hour before the play begins. Get there early, grab a pint, talk to the performers as they mill about and let the music get under your skin. The atmosphere is so perfect and the world the actors create is so magical that you’ll never want to leave.
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is up through Dec. 9.