ARE you sitting comfortably? Well, let the National Theatre of Scotland tell you a story.
The theatre is bringing the tale of ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ to The Maltings from Monday to Wednesday, but instead of letting the plot unfold on the stage in the main auditorium they will be unravelling the many twists and turns in the more intimate surroundings of the Stage Door Bar. As director Wils Wilson explained, the audience need to be at the heart of the play, which is centred around one woman’s search to find out more about the Border Ballads.
Taking a break from last-minute rehearsals earlier this week, she said: “It was always our intention to use The Maltings bar rather than put the action on the big stage. And obviously with Berwick being so close to the border its appropriate that we are bringing the play here.
“Performing the play in the bar will hopefully allow us to build a close relationship with the audience which is crucial. A bar setting is initially very welcoming and convivial, but there might be times during ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ where the audience do feel a bit unnerved.”
Prudencia Hart is a collector of folk songs who gets caught in a lock-in with a bunch of locals, and that’s when she hears of the existence of a song beyond song… the original song… the uncollected song… the song of undoing ... and sets out to find it.
What Prudencia doesn’t know is that the song of undoing belongs to the devil. The wild journey through the night takes her into and out of different supernatural and natural realms always looking for the song until finally she discovers it – and is undone.
It is the darker side of the plot that Wils particularly enjoys putting together. “Whenever you start to talk about the dark side then is when people’s mouths generally start to water,” she says. “We are in the fortunate position that we can explore it in a safe way. The people who experienced things at the time and are written about in the Border Ballads didn’t have the same fortune. The Border Ballads are such beautiful stories and during the course of our research we went along to some folk sessions so we could bring some of that intimate feel to our own production.
“Not hailing from Scotland myself, I had the most to learn. The Scottish Borders are the borders between the everyday world and other worlds – so that on occasions the supernatural creeps in.
“It is a place where cultures mix and collide, people fall in love across boundaries and new and interesting music, stories, culture are created. It is a dangerous place, but also a place of extraordinary potential, excitement and beauty.
“Prudencia finds herself caught up in her own Border Ballad and our intention is for the audience to have a very direct experience and connect with her story.”
Wils, who admits that she has been at the helm of productions “in some odd spaces,” such as woods, trams, buses and department stores, said “each space presented its own challenge”. She looks forward to seeing what The Maltings Stage Bar throws up.