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The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

*****

THE National Theatre of Scotland’s ongoing adventures in popular culture have impressed by avoiding any artistic tourism.

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This latest foray into ad hoc informality finds writer David Greig and director Wils Wilson going deep into the heart of folk ballad country to make something which is by turns one of the most rambunctiously life-affirming and touchingly beautiful reinventions of its subject.

Designed to be played in spit-and sawdust-pubs, and performed here by five actor/musicians in the Tron’s atmospheric Victorian Bar, we’re introduced to the shy young folk-song collector of the title who, in between doing a PhD on the topography of Hell, is dispatched to Kelso in bleak mid-winter to deliver an academic paper. Stranded in the snow, Prudencia finds herself caught up in the hurly-burly of supernatural excesses that resemble the musical yarns she lovingly tends.

Greig is fast becoming a master of appropriating old forms for the 21st-century, and even manages to slip a Karl Denver tune in between Alasdair Macrae’s score as well as his own waggishly realised rhyming couplets. Yet, by the erotically charged second half, the tempo of the piece has slowed to something more intimate, and, as Madeleine Worrall’s Prudencia courts David McKay and Andy Clark’s lost and lonely devil, downright heart-breaking.

When she finally takes to the floor with a pop classic reinvented as a haunting lament before morphing into kick-ass hoedown and then to karaoke, as with her own getting-of-wisdom, you shouldn’t miss this show for the world. Visit www.nationaltheatrescotland.com for next venues and dates.

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