REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

chicago shakespeare

Created by David Greig (writer) and Wils Wilson (director)

Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland

At Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Upstairs, Chicago

Scottish storytelling at its manic best unfolds in a intimate pub space

“We would begin with Prudencia’s birth/

Or her use of objects to maintain self-worth”

As part of Chicago Shakespeare’ World’s Stage Series, the National Theatre of Scotland brings its pub-infested, Celtic music rich storytelling feast – The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart  to Chicago. It is set in the Upstairs theatre at Chicago Shakespeare’s Navy Pier digs.  The theatre is transformed into a Scottish pub complete with bar, tables and, of course, Scottish ale and whiskey.  Fill out a form and you’ll get a measure of malt whiskey to set you in the right mood for the show.

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Filled with authentic Celtic  traditional music, the cast of five actors/musicians work at a frantic pace to delight us with toe-tapping music and rich storytelling based on old Scottish myths. In their best “Theatre Without Walls'” tradition, the National Theatre of Scotland has sent a most interesting theatrical event to Chicago in Prudencia Hart. The cast of five, Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Melody Grove, Alasdair MacRae, and David McKay all do many things:  play various instruments, sing, dance, perform  comic antics, and tell stories – all in a most ambitious evening of theatrical mayhem. Melody Grove, as Prudencia Hart, drives the storytelling that utilizes rhyming couplets to enrich the flavor and exude clever humor.

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it seems that Prudencia is an ivory-tower academic sweetly “lost” in her research on Scottish folk music. When she visits a pub in rural Scotland during a snowy blizzard,  she becomes entangled in a Faustian tale where the devil collects souls including hers. With a complex set of comically unhinged events rich in Scottish folklore and myth, this rambling story take so many twists and turns that it defies description. The tale drones on for about 30 minutes more that it needs be and the use of rhymes becomes redundant as the thick Scottish brogues eventually render much of the show hard to understand.

Yet there is much to enjoy, loads of funny bits, and the engaging use of the space with full audience participation becomes endearing.  I had to admire the skill, craftsmanship, and energy of the cast. They work so hard to tell their stories and to entertain us  that we both admire them and applaud their efforts. This unique theatrical event needs to be seen and experienced to fully appreciated. It is an adult show. If you enjoy storytelling theatre, then this will be a major treat.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 27, 2012

For more info checkout The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart page at

At Chicago Shakespeare ‘s Upstairs theatre,  Navy Pier, Chicago, IL,, tickets $45 – $60, Tuesdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through October 28, 2012

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