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Album: Music From The Eastern Angles Production of The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart
Label: Pear O'Legs
Tracks: 13

This one arrived for review just too late to tie in with the production to which it forms a partial soundtrack (which ended its tour across East Anglia back in May) - but it deserves a review nevertheless, not least in case the production ever tours again in the future (originally produced by The National Theatre Of Scotland, and now staged by the Ipswich-based Eastern Angles company). For this is indeed a strange and intriguing piece of theatre, which is billed as part live folk gig, part folk tale and part barnstorming comedy but to my mind doesn't quite take its best inspiration from any of these elements. And in any case, a soundtrack album of the music from the show can only tell part of its tale. It concerns a character called Prudencia Hart who has a passion for folk music, who on a trip to Kelso for a conference sets in motion a mischievous fantasy, a dream-like adventure of self-discovery during which the Border Ballads and local histories play a key role.

The narrative is played out in a variety of formats including rhyming verse, comedy, original songs and music and traditional ballads. The production's been highly acclaimed in its initial performances, and this recording of musical items from the show certainly gives something of the respectful yet also slightly anarchic flavour of the material and its style of execution.

The ensemble consists of five singer-musicians (three guitarists and two violinists, one of whom plays a bit of percussion too); the individuals performing on each track are not identified, unfortunately, but their enthusiasm and energy is very much apparent (if perhaps a touch over-the-top on Bedlam Boys and Twa Corbies and yet on other occasions a touch underwhelming). It's not really possible to follow the narrative by listening to the CD in sequence, since no synopsis or notes are provided, and there seems no logical plot development within.

The material performed includes traditional (Killiecrankie, Twa Corbies, Parting Glass, a reel, and a fine acappella rendition of Blackwaterside), Burns (Red Red Rose), Matt McGinn (Rolling Hills O' The Borders), with some original compositions by cast member Arran Glass. It's all a bit of an enigma, albeit an enjoyable one, whether as a memento of - or an appetiser for - the stage production. Actually, in the end I'm not really sure which way is best to recommend it.

David Kidman