Hiraeth

Bud wants to leave home, but when doing so breaks the tradition of four generations of farmers in rural West Wales, it is a tough decision for the aspiring artist. There is so much to keep her: parents, boyfriend, beautiful countryside and knowing her place in the scheme of things. Luckily, Bud’s grandmother urges her to follow her heart by asking if she is a rock or a river; a solid stay-put sort of person or someone who goes with the flow. So she goes.

The unusual format of this production, coupled with the two performers’ sparkling delivery throughout made Hiraeth an absolute pleasure

Hiraeth is a Welsh emotion that is impossible to translate directly into English. It alludes to longing, home-sickness, wanting things to be as they were, a melancholy, a collective love, not of a nation but of belonging. In this theatre production of the same name, writer and performer Buddug James Jones tackles an issue faced by generations of Welsh youth: the need to leave in order to explore (rather than find) their identity.

The production features Buddug James Jones as Bud and Max Mackintosh as Max, Mam, Dad, Mamgi and assorted boyfriends. It is autobiographical in nature but presented in the sort of self-effacing comic style in which Welsh writers have become so good. As a performer (she claims she is not an actor) James Jones is in a similar vein to characters played by Joanna Page and Kimberley Nixon: a recognisable type, but not stereotypical. As a contrast and perfect comic foil, Mackintosh’s array of characters reminded me of Uncle Bryn (Dad) and Gwen (Mam) from Gavin & Stacey, Dilys Price (Mamgi) from Fireman Sam and Welsh comedian John Sparkes’ character Siadwel (the Welsh boyfriend), but all the characters were portrayed with affection rather than malice, even the horrible Portuguese boyfriend.

James Jones paid homage to many well-known real-life Welsh characters who had shaped her experience in Wales; particularly funny was her bi-lingual Cool Cymru song (yup, there are songs). There were some nice asides, restrained yet effective use of ‘lush’ and ‘tidy’ and much chuckling in the rakes throughout; proof that the issues resonated with a more international audience, of which many on this date seemed to be Australian.

The unusual format of this production, coupled with the two performers’ sparkling delivery throughout made Hiraeth an absolute pleasure. I’m not just saying that because there were Welshcakes at the end; I am left with more than a little hiraeth and the feeling I’ve stumbled across Welsh Zen. Maent yn hoelio (they nailed [it]).

Reviews by Sarah McIntosh

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In the summer of 1989, a farmer's wife gives birth to a baby girl named Buddug James Jones. In this moment she became heir to the family’s three hundred year old farming dynasty. Desperate to leave, Bud wrestles with the knowledge that her departure sounds the death knell for the family farm. Leaving five generations of tradition behind her as she sets out alone into the big smoke... With live music and Welsh cakes, Hiraeth explores the decline of Welsh tradition and identity through one woman's struggle to escape and let go. Winner - IdeasTap Underbelly Award.