28th November 2021

The Royal Exchange Theatre is dreaming of a Strange Christmas

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is the Royal Exchange Theatre’s annual musical of 2021
The Royal Exchange Theatre is dreaming of a Strange Christmas
Photo: Royal Exchange Theatre.

The Royal Exchange Theatre (RX) has had quite the programme since reopening in June.

The theatre reopened with Bloody Elle, which I gave a fantastic review. This was my first ever RX review – and what a pleasure it was.

New Mancunion writer Aayush Chadha then gave gleefully good reviews of Glee & Me and The Mountaintop.

Now, it’s my turn again.

I always go to watch the RX’s Christmas musical. I caught their last one, Gypsy, twice – as did the writer who reviewed the show, Ellis Coopey – which is testament to just how good it was.

This, however, will be my first time reviewing an RX musical.

Photo: Chris Payne.

Whilst the RX usually adapts famous musicals – recently, it has adapted Into the Woods, Sweet Charity and Guys & Dolls – they’re trying something different this year.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is “a wild musical play that sees Scottish folk songs collide with decadent karaoke under the direction of Debbie Hannan.”

Different, indeed!

Although the RX is one of the most diverse, dynamic and creative theatres in the country, I often feel a little apprehensive about some of their productions. I know that they’re going to be good – they’re always good – but their artistic ambition is so bold that it’s enough to scare a theatre critic, you see!

I shouldn’t doubt the RX, though: they succeed at everything – and then some.

The theatre’s new artistic directors, Bryony Shanahan and Roy Alexander Weise (the former of whom we interviewed earlier this year) are continuing to put their print on the theatre – to wonderful results.

Photo: Chris Payne.

Anyway, enough about me – here’s the synopsis!

“Oozing with wit, passion, seduction and sambucas, this show is a riotous mix of rhyming couplets, live music and a glimpse of the underworld.

“It’s the winter solstice and lover of old things and traditional ways, Prudencia Hart, fresh from her PhD, is conference bound. In a hot stuffy hall on the borders, she shares her theories on Hell in folk literature. But, as the snow falls thick and fast the small-town flings off its folk traditions, dumps Robert Burns for a bit of Kylie, and grabs the karaoke mic with both hands. The night gets increasingly raucous and it’s astonishing what Prudencia will discover between the snow and the vodka shots – not least, what she finds out about herself.”

I’m sold. Confused – but sold.

Stay tuned for my inevitably good review of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, which plays at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 4th December until 15th January.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected]

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