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Prudencia Hart

On Midwinter’s eve, a young Scottish academic folklorist, Prudencia Hart, is scheduled to speak at a conference in Kelso on her specialist subject of The Borders Ballads. The conference does not go well. Her annoying colleague Dr Colin Syme, a specialist in the study of football chants, bests her in the plenary debate calling her out-dated and reactionary. She is humiliated. As they leave the hall Colin and Prudencia find they have been snowed. They are forced to seek shelter in a local pub. Whilst in the pub they both become caught up in a wild lock in full of drink, song and debauchery which sparks a journey into the underworld for Prudencia who becomes caught up in a supernatural Border Ballad of her own.

The story is told in ballad form, mostly in rhyme and is intended to be performed by a troupe of actor/ musicians in the environment of a pub or village hall. It’s form and performance are inspired by Scottish traditional ceilidhs and storytelling sessions.

Prudencia, We have a lot in common, you and I,

Each of us alone, and questing

To capture that which we find interesting.

To fix the butterfly with a pin

To catch a thought with words to put it in,

We don’t have such different roles

It’s just –

You’re a collector of songs, and I’m a collector of souls.

Wils, Georgia and I developed the story of Prudencia Hart during a residency in December 2009. We were supposed to go to the highlands but it snowed and we couldn’t travel so they stayed in the motel in North Queensferry. The snow was about three feet deep in Fife. My friend Fabienne had to  ski to Tescos for her groceries. There were avalanche warnings on Arthur’s seat. We told the story back and forth to each other in the Queensferry motel – adding more each time – until we knew it was right. After Wils and Georgia left I had to move onto another project – a film project – and so I went to London for a few days. One night I got drunk and fell asleep and had a dream in which I saw The Lady from The Estate and her children climbing all around her. Also in that dream I heard the line – ‘It’s difficult to know where to start, with the strange undoing of Prudencia Hart.’ On the train home from London I wrote the first three pages of the play.


Title: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
Premier Place and Date:  2011
Director and Producing Company:
Publication Details: Faber and Faber ISBN-10: 057128213X, ISBN-13: 978-0571282135
Translation Details: None
Foreign Performances: None
Awards, Prizes:
Characters:  (Male -  Female – )