I got a rare treat of off-Broadway theater with the family today. We saw The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a Scottish immersive theater production performed in a live pub setting at the McKittrick Hotel, the same location (and creative group) as the long-running Sleep No More, the interactive meditation on The Scottish Play.
Prudencia Hart warrants a mention here because it concerns itself with a passionate if over-earnest young academic whose focus is Scottish border ballads, and “Tam Lin” gets not only name-dropped, but becomes intrinsic to the supernatural evolution of the plot. It was wonderful to see the show take swipes at academics who feel the need to analyze and deconstruct folk tales until they have lost all context and feeling, while Prudencia stands as the defender of these tales as art, as pieces of vibrant popular music.
As a Scadian, as a bard, as someone with more than a passing interest in Tam Lin, I was mesmerized. As an American, I was overjoyed to see a postmodern and thoroughly cheeky and creative Scottish take on this subject matter. The cast of five was delightful and committed to both the silly and serious aspects of the story they were telling, and Jessica Hardwick, as Prudencia, was positively spellbinding. The entire ambiance of the thing delighted all three of us, as well as our friends who were happily able to join us. (I must once again acknowledge my debt to, yes, Ellen Kushner, who tipped us off about the show.)
The show is playing for three more weeks. If you have the time and the means, I recommend you run to see it like…(SPOILERS!) the Devil himself is chasing you.