Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (PuSh)

(photo credit: Drew Farrell)
A wild night out in Scotland
An experience not to be missed
by Chris Lane

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart isn’t exactly a play. It’s an experience. It’s a ballad. It’s a night out in a Scottish town. It’s a dance with the devil. It’s quite something, really.

Only in town for a few days, the cast and crew hail from the National Theatre of Scotland. Their unforgettable performance takes place in a ballroom, where the audience is seated at tables where you can enjoy a beer or two while watching. There is no stage for this show, as the performers move all around the room.

You can’t just sit back and watch this passively – the whole audience is in it together. You even have to help the cast make snow out of your napkins.

Strange is a key word in the title

The show tells the story of Prudencia, who studies the ballads of Scotland’s border region. The play itself is a sort of ballad, as it is performed in verse, and narrated in turn by the entire cast of five actors. Music is an important part of the show, which includes Scottish folk songs, a football chant and a wonderful new take on Kylie Minogue. All of the cast members sing and play a variety of instruments.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is an eclectic blend of performance styles, and is unlike any other show I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly very funny when it wants to be, and has some very intelligent and creative musings on academia, Scotland, relationships, hell, and the human experience. Prudencia’s journey is a fantastic tale that is at once grandiose and simple, tragic and comic.

Melody Grove is captivating in her role of Prudencia, while David McKay is devilishly good as the mysterious man she meets. Paul McCole, Melody Grove and Alasdair Macrae round out the talented cast as they seamlessly change between their roles as actors, narrators and musicians. Their accents can be hard to understand and some lines get lost amidst the various sounds of the show, but that doesn’t seem to matter. It just makes you feel even more like you’ve landed yourself in Scotland.

Strange is a key word in the title; it describes the story, some of its characters, and the production itself. The show is its very own form of theatre, and it’s as magical as its storyline.

The remaining performances are at 8 pm on February 1 and 2, with a 2 pm matinee on the 2. The show, presented as a part of the PuSh Festival, is at WISE Hall (behind the Cultch). It runs 2 hours 45 minutes, with an intermission. It’s restricted to audiences 19 and over. 

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