Brighton has more than just a whiff of the Devil! The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
If, like me, you have an aversion to traditional ‘thaytaar’, especially cramped seats in the Theatre Royal, you’ll love this ‘strange undoing’. The Brighton Festival has a reputation for theatre in odd locations but this venue choice was inspired. Let me explain.
The walk down Brighton Pier on a warm evening, to the sounds of seagulls and the smell of fresh donuts was a great start. Performed in Horatio’s bar near the end of the pier, we were given a free whisky, to get us in the mood, and sat down at a table. The great thing about a play set in the bar is that the audience can chat and get to know one another. That we did.
The tale, (I may be wrong but seemed like a loose version of Tam O’Shanter), starts with a Border conference on Scottish ballads and takes the rise out of academics and their phoney theorising. As the snow falls (the audience create a snowstorm using torn up napkins) and the drink takes hold, the goings-on get more and more raucous,. There’s humour, songs, dance, music, striptease and a brilliant sequence in which a drunken night is recalled in the memories of the drunken participants - with increasing horror.
The whole play, by David Grieg, is a ballad, written in verse, and drifts seamlessly in and out of song. What a way to spend an evening, taken to hell and back in a pub. It clatters along at pace, shifts around the tables, leaps up on the tables and literally juggles and ‘plays’ around with storytelling. I should add, unashamedly as I'm Scottish, that this is a Scottish play and had all the traits of Scottish writing and culture; brash, sweary and relished the idea of drunken abandon. Great to see that Scottish theatre is, to my simple mind, alive and kicking.
Then, out in the fresh, evening air of the pier in the dark. The smell of the salt air, the swell on the ink-black sea below and the creak of the wooden boards as we walked back towards land. The Big Wheel spun slowly, the Lady-Boys of Bangkok tent throbbed and the nightclubs beckoned. Brighton has more than just a whiff of the Devil!