The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
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This wild former Edinburgh Fringe hit about mad passion, the devil and a heavy night in a shit karaoke pub is totally intoxicating. Like falling in love or downing six flaming sambucas in a thong, it produces odd effects (crying, laughing, talking to your fellow man...).
Partly it’s because the audience is all seated with pints round tables in a sweltering King’s Cross bar, and the experience of sitting next to said fellow man while a lairy Scottish folklore expert rides him like a motorbike is a real ice-breaker. Mostly it’s because this fantastical mock epic – performed in rhyme by five charismatic folk musicians-cum-actors who sing like they could break your face as easily as your heart – is the most moving and original spectacle you’re ever likely to see in a bar.
Hats off to the Royal Court, which has imported David Greig and Wils Wilson’s ‘The Strange Undoing...’ to King’s Cross and Peckham’s Bussey Building instead of killing it in a conventional theatre.
At a mediocre university folklore conference, Prudencia Hart, a decidedly pre-modernist girl who loves ballads and wears tweed, clashes with her nemesis, laddie football chant expert Colin Syme. When snow falls, the plot wanders off like Robert Burns at a Pogues concert, to some very strange places. They include the Devil’s lair, which happens to be in a B&B by the local Asda car park. Will the Evil One hold Prudencia captive forever? Or will she be rescued – as in ballads of old – by a knight with his trousers round his ankles and his boxers full of real ice cubes?
Under the harsh lights of a bar that’s as hot as hell, something awkward, messy, weirdly erotic and genuinely moving happens.
By Caroline McGinn