The Strange Undoing Of

Prudencia Hart

McKittrick Hotel, Chelsea,

New York

Marianne Gunn


JUST a stone's throw from Hell's Kitchen, the National Theatre of Scotland has some devilish deeds brewing in the New York debut of award-winning The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. The fable is a masterclass in the art of storytelling, brought to life by the talented ensemble of five, including original cast member (and Musical Director) Alasdair Macrae whose musicianship is little short of astounding. Thanks to sold out dates, the limited run has been extended until the end of February - although there will be a full cast change this weekend, with the exception of captivating Peter Hannah.

The atmospheric setting of Chelsea's McKittrick Hotel is perfect for the folk tale of a descent into the Underworld after a particularly debauched pub "lock-in" on the Winter Solstice during a snow storm. The titular character, a pretty repressed academic specialising in the Border Ballad, seems out of step with her own time sporting some Miss Jean Brodie Tweed and a dark green velvet cape. Played by an impressive Melody Grove, she is repulsed by rival academic Dr Colin Syme, an unlikely hero figure in his gaudy tropical shirt specialising in the study of football chants. As the night takes a sinister twist, Prudencia learns more about herself and about the possibilities of existence.

Interactive from the very start, this is an absolute treat of theatrical and musical mastery. The first half in particular had so many clever elements, including possibly the most dramatic blackout I've ever experienced and jaw-dropping bottle playing from multi-instrumentalist Annie Grace. In the more supernatural second act, suspension of disbelief was required although my incredulity was solely reserved for the notion of a Costco in Kelso. The physicality of performance from Hannah in particular provided an intensity that mirrored the dark subject matter. A touch of pantomime brought the play to a more upbeat finish, while some haunting Kylie karaoke means I will never hear that song in the same way again. Prudencia Hart, I can't get you out of my head. What a treat.