The Bluestone Room, Auckland CBD, Auckland

13/03/2013 - 23/03/2013

Auckland Arts Festival 2013

Production Details


This Auckland Arts Festival, The National Theatre of Scotland, of Black Watch fame, is taking theatre to a place Kiwis know and love – the pub. The runaway hit of the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is an opportunity for audiences to pull up a bar stool, grab a dram and settle in for an evening of great theatre, live music and unusual comings and goings. 

One wintry morning Prudencia Hart, an uptight academic, sets off to attend a conference in Kelso, a town on the Scottish Borders. When the snow begins to fall, she takes shelter in a local pub, and as the blizzard sets in, Prudencia finds herself ‘locked-in’ with a cluster of locals. That’s when she hears about the life-altering song.

What Prudencia doesn’t know is that the song belongs to the Devil…

Inspired by Robert Burns and Border ballads, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is delivered via a romp of rhyming couplets, hellish encounters, lyrical ghost stories and wild karaoke with live musicians. Prudencia’s dream-like journey of self-discovery unfolds in and around the audience.

Writer David Greig, director Wils Wilson and composer Alasdair Macrae were inspired to create the show when The National Theatre of Scotland sent them to an old pub in Kelso, to research a ‘new piece of theatre’.

Midnight rolled around and no one was ready to go home, so the Landlord closed the doors – it was a lock-in.

Early in the wee hours, an old man told a “one hundred and ten percent true” story about a group of people who’d come a few years back to search for songs and how one of them had vanished, never to be seen again.

The piece is a site-specific work, designed to be performed “anywhere that people are gathered and warm and have enough drink”. Therefore the show is always staged in a tavern, bar, pub or community space – a place where stories are told, re-told, sung and passed on.

Border ballads are a collection of songs from the region where England meets Scotland, a place with a long tradition of balladry. The Border ballads are usually sung unaccompanied and with no chorus, but with repeating motifs and recurring themes, often about the supernatural.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart originally toured Scotland in February 2011 subsequently playing at Latitude Festival, Òran Mór, Glasgow, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2011. The production has won three awards, a Critics Award for Theatre Scotland (CATS) for Best Music and Sound, an Argus Angel at the Brighton Festival and a Herald Angel at Edinburgh Fringe. Since then it has toured the UK, to numerous festivals and in 2013 will tour Australia, Canada and extensively through the United States.

David Greig was the first Dramaturg for National Theatre of Scotland and his plays have been translated and produced worldwide. They include The American Pilot (RSC), Yellow Moon, Dr. Korcak’s Example, Petr, and the award-winning plays San Diego, Outlying Islands and Caledonia Dreaming. His screenplays and television work includes At The End of The Sentence and The Darkest Hour. 

Since its launch in February 2006, the National Theatre of Scotland has been involved in creating 186 productions in 156 different locations. With no building of its own, the Company takes theatre all over Scotland and beyond, working with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. It takes place in the great buildings of Scotland, but also in site-specific locations, airports and tower blocks, community halls and drill halls, ferries and forests. The company has performed to over 810,000 people across three continents.

***** You shouldn’t miss this show for the world … rambunctiously life affirming and touchingly beautiful. – The Herald

**** More vibrantly alive than any piece of theatre I’ve seen in Scotland for years. – The Scotsman

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart 

Function Room, The Bluestone Room, 9-11 Durham Lane, Auckland CBD
When Wednesday 13 March – Friday 15 March, 7pm
Saturday 16 March – Sunday 17 March, 4pm
Tuesday 19 March – Friday 22 March, 7pm
Saturday 23 March – Sunday 24 March, 4pm

Duration 2hr 30min incl interval

Bookings Book at THE EDGE: / 09 357 3355 / 0800 289 842
Group bookings: / 09 357 3354

Door sales one hour before the show commences. Latecomers cannot be admitted due to the nature of the show.

Licensed premises. Under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

Cast (all actor/musicians): Andy Clark, Annie Grace, Alasdair Macrae, Dave McKay and Melody Grove 

Designer: Georgia McGuinness

Movement Director: Janice Parker

Tour made possible by the Scottish Government
With support from the British Council  

2hrs 30mins, incl. interval

A room, a great story and imagination

Review by Johnny Givins 15th Mar 2013

This is a great piece of modern theatre.  It’s the real Scottish culture, ancient and modern, with not a piece of tartan in sight! 

The venue is the bar at Bluestone Room. You are met before climbing the stairs and told that the show is a ‘lock-in’: imagine a Scottish pub where the snow makes it impossible to leave, so they lock the doors then drink, sing, dance and tell stories all night long.  Sitting at the tables you are asked to tear the napkins into snowflakes and have a free dram of Scotch whiskey.  That certainly gets things going! 

The National Theatre of Scotland is a theatre company with no stage of its own, only a wonderful creative network of writers, maverick thinkers and theatre crusaders. They are driven by the desire to make theatre without walls. Each show is devised for performance in unlikely venues – anywhere the audience can gather. 

This show was conceived in an old pub in Kelso (Scottish borders) during a snow storm lock-in and was developed with wild creativity, great acting skill, superb singing and lots of audience participation ideas.

There are five highly accomplished actors in this company who entertain with live music, ballads, and Celtic stories.  There is no stage, special lighting, no high tech, just a room, a great story and imagination. They weave a magical spell telling the story of Prudencia Hart, a 28 year old academic and collector of folk material, and her undoing by the Devil. 

Melody Grove creates Prudencia, moving from uptight Edinburgh scholar to emotional turmoil and ecstatic love, with believability and integrity.  Her adversary is the egocentric Colin Symes (L R Paul McCole) who is so in love with himself that “if he was a biscuit he would eat himself.”  He is a modern scholar bringing a waterfall of popular culture to illuminate the world of the Scottish ballad and show how clever he really is. 

The Devil (David MacKay) is charming, at first, as the B&B host and turns into a chillingly evil man with supernatural powers and magnetism.  Annie Grace and Alasdair Macrae play everyone else with clarity humour and love. 

This is a great ensemble company of actors (who all play instruments) with super fast interaction, weaving in and around each other and the audience, throwing and bouncing vocally as they create a world from modern pub with karaoke to ancient landscape of hell to surreal Pasolini and poppy Kyle Minogue.  This show steals from everywhere, songs, quotes, films and it all makes sense. 

The audience is a willing part of the show.  The action takes place all around the room, on tables, on the floor, on the walls; a mature woman becomes a motorbike – and yes, when someone says “it’s snowing” I pick up my pile of torn napkin, throw it into the air and we create a blizzard.  Oh, by the way the cheese sandwiches are real and taste great. 

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a ‘must see’ of the Auckland festival before it continues its world tour to Vancouver.  National Theatre of Scotland is a new breed of modern theatre which would transfer well to our environment.  Expect our theatre companies to absorb the ideas and be inspired.  Isn’t that what a festival is supposed to do? 


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So much fun

Review by Simon Wilson 15th Mar 2013

They start serious, with a lament, and then launch themselves into a long and very funny jag, all in rhyming couplets and loosely tied to a preposterous academic dispute about “authentic” modern folk music. As in, ballads or football songs?

But there’s a whole lot more to The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart than that. This Scottish show is located in that nefarious part of Scotland where for centuries nothing and nobody has been quite what they seem: the Borders. Which means, musically, it’s not just “Scottish”: there are English whiffs – Sandy Denny, that most English of folk heroes, gets a shout-out – and definite Irish riffs too.

The Borders are most particularly not what they seem on a stormy midwinter solstice night in 2010 when Prudencia Hart visits. [More


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Songs from the source of Scots' theatre

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 15th Mar 2013

The roots of European theatre are deeply entangled with the culture of the ale-house and the Scottish National theatre makes an exuberant return to the source with a riotously funny and at times tenderly lyrical tribute to Scottish narrative ballads.

As befits a tale from the unruly borderlands the shows flits back and forth across genres and scrambles together an eclectic mash-up that has Kylie Minogue rubbing shoulders with lyric poetry and haunting Scottish laments.

These carnivalesque jolts create a topsy-turvy world where the upper classes are held up to ridicule and the down-to-earth wisdom of the peasant reigns supreme. [More


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