The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart / The Golden Dragon, Traverse @ Ghillie Dhu / Traverse Theatre
A Satanic orgy that fails to stimulate
Monday 22 August 2011
Eleven of the 18 new plays at the Traverse this year are by Scottish authors, two by David Greig, whose The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is co-produced with the National Theatre of Scotland in the Ghillie Dhu, one of the city's most atmospheric pubs.
Greig's play is inspired by Sir Walter Scott's collection of Border ballads, and follows the search for their modern equivalent, and old meanings, by Prudencia Hart, an earnest academic. Turning up for a conference in Kelso, she finds herself the subject of her own border ballad, swept away in a satanic orgy in the back of her B&B.
It's all fairly jolly but I have higher expectations of Greig – he's always brilliant at juxtaposing modern life with mythical, nationalist fable – than to award marks merely for his trademark intelligence and ambition.
The show becomes a repetitive mess in the second half, and the investigation of language and modern application too easily abandoned.
A company of five, led by Madeleine Worrall as Prudencia, give it their much-needed all, and Wils Wilson's production has some lively folk music, as well as a trying karaoke night.
Back at Traverse headquarters, I much preferred German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig's The Golden Dragon, translated by David Tushingham and directed by Ramin Gray, his first production as artistic director of the touring ATC.
This is magic surrealism in a Thai fusion restaurant where a Chinese kitchen boy (played by Kathryn O'Reilly), suffering from toothache, is somehow reclaimed by his homeland while his co-workers and neighbours sort out their lives while reciting their favourite items on the menu.
It's a delightfully surprising mix of games-playing and argument, with Ann Firbank doubling as a little old man and a workshy ant partnering Adam Best's dancing, and starving, cricket underneath tables where two air stewardesses (David Beames and Jack Tarlton) swap notes.
Gray's production is played out on great white strips of paper that double as neutral scenery and an action painting of beer, blood and assorted properties, accumulating to the mosaic of a storyline.
The Golden Dragon itself could be anywhere in Europe, the point being that such places can be imagined as home-from-home for all sorts, and the extraction of a tooth a sign of cultural appropriation by heavy-handed means (vodka and a huge spanner, to be exact). But that's less important than the fun generated and the fleet, skilful theatricality of the event.
'Strange': to 27 August; 'Golden': to 28 August (0131 228 1404)
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart: 2/5
The Golden Dragon: 4/5
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