EFR - Reviews of Hiraeth by Buddug James Jones

Hiraeth by Buddug James Jones

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Henry Holmes

at 09:36 on 6th Aug 2014

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If I had to describe this show in one word it would be heartwarming. Buddug ‘Bud’ James Jones tells the story of leaving her ancestral hometown of Newcastle Emlyn, in a coming of age tale for the deeply rural millennial. After a fateful encounter with a local folk legend, Jones decides to sever all ties and head to art school in London. Jones is backed by her best friend Max Mackintosh, who plays accompanying guitar, and the vast majority of the supporting characters in quick succession.

The production manages to be spectacularly Welsh. A significant portion of the dialogue is actually in Welsh and we see all manner of cultural reference. The age old tale of a small town girl (or small village girl, I suppose) moving to make it in the big city is updated sufficiently as to not seem tired or stereotypical, and, unlike the main characters of other current tellings of that type of tale, Bud is an effortlessly likeable protagonist. We are drawn in and rooting for her from the start.

In addition to the show’s main happy and hopeful message, it is also hilarious. Jones’ comic timing is subtle but perfectly pointed, while Mackintosh is loud and vigorously effervescent. The only issue with this is that some of the more emotional moments are undercut by the humour in the scene, somewhat lessening the impact. However, this only happens once or twice and the humour is, by and large, well-placed and hilarious.

Hiraeth is performed in a fairly large, sparse studio space, which initially seems odd considering the personal and intimate nature of the production. However, it becomes apparent that the size of the stage is very much justified and is used to full effect, from a detailed description of the James Jones’ families various neighbouring farms, to Bud’s demonstrations of what is, and what is not, art.

Jones and Mackintosh manage to present a portrait of modern Wales in a way that is both hilarious and heartfelt; we see the clash between the monotony of rural life and the overwhelming crush of the city. Bud is an instantly likable character and Mackintosh’s supporting characters are all distinctive and very much have their own personality. Each audience member left the show with warmth in their heart, cake in their bellies and a smile on their face.

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Lili Thomas

at 09:44 on 6th Aug 2014

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I was sceptical of the show when the theatre greeted me with a guitar strumming man and smiling woman in a knitted jumper. The show’s title is a hard word for the non-Welsh to say, let alone to understand, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, Hiraeth, a term which describes a mixture of yearning, desire and nostalgia, was heart-warmingly funny and uplifting throughout.

Performers Buddug James Jones and Max Mackintosh ensure the audience that Buddug is not an actor, but Max, agentless, would spend the next hour proving that he was. The autobiographical nature of the play has left me in real doubt as to whether Bud truly is not an actor, a testament to the show’s intended style.

Hiraeth follows Bud’s decisions after Wales' biggest folk festival changes her life, and leaves her with the realisation that she absolutely must go to London, news which seizes her town. Leaving her family and farm behind, Bud moves to London and finds herself facing up to loneliness, change and a topless Portuguese man. Mackintosh does a superb job of playing every character who is left to face the consequences of Bud leaving, as well as all the people who she meets in her newly independent life.

The two characters’ endless enthusiasm energises the large stage impressively and the rather sporadically scattered plastic tractors and boxes begin to add to the charm of the performers’ honesty and frank awareness of the show’s rough edges. Mackintosh’s relaxed guitar strumming effectively sets the mood for each scene and, having set the level of laughter high, the juxtaposition of Bud’s sadness and difficulties are all the more poignant. The pair never, however, allow the atmosphere to deflate; instead, the performers are soon running forward towards fresh props and action.

Both Bud and Max sing with gusto, and it is surprisingly comfortable to join in as a cheerful audience. Bud’s grandmother is a wise woman, and her advice about people who are the ‘rocks’ of life and those who are the ‘rivers’ becomes a highly enjoyable and liberating musical addition to the play. Although the commentary on the issues surrounding Welsh rural life are somewhat lost amid the frantic narrative of the show, Bud’s story is one which embodies the universal experience of departing one’s home and striding on along a new path. Hiraeth has a captivating charm which reaffirms one’s life course, whilst making the whole audience want to take a trip to the Welsh countryside, particularly after thoroughly enjoying the free Welsh cake at the end.

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