Theatre in Wales

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Fresh, Frank and Frenetic

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Buddug James Jones & Company- Hiraeth , Big Belly, Edinburgh , August 6, 2014
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Buddug James Jones & Company- Hiraeth “Hiraeth” scores a number of firsts. It must be a first in theatre for the Little Chef on the Pont Abraham roundabout to get a name check. (Not a lot of Hiraeth there but it is only five minutes from the farm shop at Cwmcerrig.) Edinburgh in its time has been host to performance from every latitude and longitude but probably never before has an audience joined in common voice to sing the chorus to a song entitled “Cool Cymru.” Buddug James Jones' verses grow ever more comicly martial culminating in the invasion of Shropshire.

The subject of “Hiraeth” is Buddug James Jones herself, the life to her mid-twenties. It closes inimitably. She is in an inflatable dinghy, its oars banging on the floor, emitting a cry of desperation as to just what is she doing in a grim air raid shelter in Scotland. The Big Belly is a undeniably strange corner in a grand city. It is a kind of undercroft, lined with curves of corrugated iron, dozens of feet below the great classical buildings that it supports. With “Hiraeth” the gaunt space is filled with joy and jubilation.

The start in life is distinctively different. A patchwork of farms close by the Ceredigion-Carmarthenshire border has been home to parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond. The family gathers for a ritual day each year for the picking of potatoes. The location is a high-up vantage point. The views one way are to Cardigan Bay, the other to the Preselis. The social highlight is the Young Farmers gathering in Llandysul. This childhood of family enclosedness brings with it expectation; a farming role is to be filled. The intention to experience London brings a family reaction of horror. In this telling of her life news broadcasts are intercepted that show a city of unremitting violence and danger. The internet is searched to locate a suitable fiancee to stop the departure.

“I'm not an actor but I'm going to give it a bloody good go” is her opening line. She does just that with lashings of enthusiasm, energy and sincerity. When the newly arrived Buddug is lonely in Peckham and weeps it is convincing acting. “Hiraeth” is boosted by fellow performer Max Mackintosh. The rapport is powerful to the extent that a return for a sad family funeral has them declaring more than once that, no, they are not partners. He plays a dozen parts starting with boyfriend Ed, instigator of an unsavoury act involving a portaloo. The parts in Wales include father, grandmother, butcher, vicar, sheep, chicken and a ghost. The parts in London include Carlos the Portuguese who loses his Slipknot t-shirt with a dive into the canal at Camden Lock to rescue a kitten.

Buddug's life-journey takes her to East London fashionistas and the script has some fun at the expense of performance art. An audience member is brought on stage and Max Mackintosh sits amidst the audience. They are told to join eyes and wow, it's art. “Hiraeth” ends with a mighty audience noise. A strength of "Hiraeth" is that it is utterly without sentimentality. Every life includes loss, loneliness and desperation and the script does not forgo all three.

As for hiraeth those participles without the “g”- “amazin' “ and “squeezin'”- had me straight back south to three degrees west fifty-one degrees north.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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