Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

“I say it each time I see you Pru
But each time I see you feels new
So we are here again and I’ll say it again
Prudencia – you are, essentially, a librarian
Peddling a kind of romantic tosh.
Your time has passed Pru – bish bash bosh!”

Going into NationalTheatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  Before seeing the show, I made sure to purchase one of the few remaining copies of the script at the Shakespeare Theatre gift shop (I learned my lesson when two years ago I didn’t purchase a copy of Black Watch and had to hunt it down online).  But, when I bought the script, I was told to hold off reading it until I saw the production.  I was glad I waited because there are differences in what I saw and what is written.

Actually, the first time I saw the show, Annie Grace was out (due to a family emergency) and was being replaced for that performance by Emma Callander who did a bang up job considering it was all last minute and she was using notes.  As it is a small company and they don’t travel with understudies, I wonder how many times such a thing has happened.  So one of the first things I noticed when seeing the show the second time was that Annie Grace does a lot more singing than her characters did the first time I saw it.  This is impossible to tell when reading the script because it is all one big ballad with no delineation as far as which character is saying the lines, even when coming from a specific character (say Pru, Colin, or Nick).  Had I read the script prior to my first visit, I’m sure I would have been a)spoiled and b)confused as to if it was actually a play I was seeing.

Prudencia Hart signed in at table 24.
In addition, my friend and I were offered advice as to the best location to sit if we wanted to be a part of the action.  So, we got their early and requested an interactive table.  And we got it!  Table 24 was the table that Melody Grove as Pru and Andy Clark as Colin sign in on, Aly Macrae sprawls across, and is later used as the table during the Ballad of Co Lin, which gave us a most excellent view of the action for the second act.  We requested the same table for the second time we saw it, but were placed at another table.  However, as there was room at table 24, we switched seats.  Hehe.  So, if you don’t mind being possibly poked at by the actors, try sitting in the highly interactive section.  I would definitely recommend it.  The actors do wander around before the show starts to educate the audience on the necessity of creating snow for the performance.  We ruined Andy’s instructions for us the second time around because we had already gotten started with snow creation.  Instead, I got him to sign my script.

It looks as if we are reenacting the "Ballad of Co Lin" here.
The show takes place on midwinter’s night 2010.  Prudence has just taken part in a conference on border ballads and discovers that she is stuck there overnight due to a blizzard.  She and Colin Syme (who annoys her with his modern take on ballads) were stuck at a pub with a very unenthusiastic “Folk Night” which then turned into rocking “Karaoke Nite”.  And although Pru has been warned about the Devil’s Ceilidh (where at midnight on midwinter solstice, the Devil (David McKay) is able to wander freely to attract souls to hell), she ventures forth from the pub to escape the madness within and to find a bed & breakfast.  Except, instead of finding a simple B&B, she gets to spend four millennia in Hell with the Devil, looking out at the Costco car park.  At least she has a library filled with all the books that ever were in it to entertain her.  And, like a good librarian/scholarly type she starts to catalogue the collection; which is precisely what I would have done in her shoes.   Does she escape the Devil?  I’ll give you a hint: there is something called the “Ballad of Co Lin” towards the end of the show. 

With Melody Grace (Prudencia)
Prudencia is a girl after my own heart.  I pretty much figured it out somewhere between when she was called a librarian by Colin and when she ended up in the loo as an escapee from the people who wanted her to participate in the karaoke.  Because, you know, I like to avoid public spectacles just as much as she does.  And then when she got to see Nick’s library for the first time, it was just like that moment in Beauty and the Beast when Belle is shown the Beast’s library and you thought you were in Heaven.  Only, in this case, it was a bit more like Hell.  And perhaps that is why I like this play so much, because I’m a lot like Pru before her undoing. 

Oh, and did I mention that you get whisky pre-show?  And it is delicious whisky.  Like, I want to go find a bottle of it for my own.  They served samples of Benromach Speyside Single Malt Whisky.  A special shout out to the man serving the whisky.  I don’t know his name, but he was very nice and gave us a bit of background on the whisky (and told me that he would never refuse a lass a second sample-which, sadly, I did not take him up on).

I’m not sure if the National Theatre of Scotland hires the nicest actors or what, but we had a chance to talk to the actors after the show the second time we saw it and they were just as awesome as their Black Watch counterparts whom we had met a couple months prior, both onstage and off.  It made me realize that I am a fan of the National Theatre of Scotland and want to see all of their shows, which means that I hope that Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC continues to carry on this relationship they have developed with NTS the past couple of years.  It would be  wonderful if someday they would bring over Enquirer or Glasgow Girls or…  Granted, I would be delighted if ever Prudencia Hart or Black Watch came back around.  I’m keeping my eyes on the schedule in hopes that Prudencia will make her way back to east coast of the US some time soon.

Although Prudencia Hart is no longer running at the Bier Baron Tavern in DC, she is still on tour after the new year!  Check the schedule out on NTS website and go if she’s in your area.  Of course, your “One Colin Syme” will be different than my “One Colin Syme”.