Theatre in Wales

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A Great Show Comes Home

The Best of Touring Theatre

Hiraeth- Buddug James Jones, Max Mackintosh & Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre Studio , October-31-14
The Best of Touring Theatre by Hiraeth- Buddug James Jones, Max Mackintosh & Company A work of theatre that can tour Wales and also play to acclaim to the heterogeneous audience that is Edinburgh is not so common. In the case of “Hiraeth” the company turned caution on its head. The critical bear-pit that is Edinburgh came first so that the tour in Wales comes laden with a collective thumbs-up from the most weighty of critical names from the London press.

Theatre does not stand still. “Hiraeth” on a second viewing has grown. It exudes a greater confidence, polish and brio. Its cast has also jumped by fifty percent. David Grubb features as mordantly cheerless friend David in London. While the acting role is silent his eloquent violin adds hugely to the texture of “Hiraeth”, augmenting the guitar of Max Mackintosh.

“Hiraeth” opens with a note of modesty. It is true that there is a difference in the performers’ backgrounds. Max Mackintosh, as one of his many characters, loses his shirt at one point. The character, a self-declared, preening Portuguese stallion, holds the stage alone for several minutes teasing and testing his audience. The voice, the timing and the playing are consummate craft.

The review from Edinburgh omitted mention of the crucial background role of Jesse Briton. “Hiraeth” is a devised work, a form of theatre-making where an acute, critical and authoritative outside eye is indispensable. “Hiraeth” has verve and a physical bounce to it, that belies the extensive exploring, honing and pruning that has preceded its eventual presentation to an audience. Jesse Briton is source too for the last brilliant image. He has also, courtesy of his own production “Bound”, (reviewed on this site February 2012), been inadvertent godfather to the very coming-into-being of “Hiraeth.”

Comedy of worth has a vein of pain that runs through it. “Hiraeth” addresses head-on the existential dilemma of upland Wales; the next generation does not want it. “Hiraeth” has a thematic seriousness to it that another event on non-urban Wales was not troubled with. Its nearest comparison with theatre of recent years would have to be “Llwyth.” The two are utterly different. A formally composed play is not the same as a piece with music, audience sing-along, and a range of characters, young and old, which also includes creatures from the farmyard. But both are about growing up and they are united in their sense of authenticity and the use of self-directed laughter to speak theatrical truth about part of the Welsh experience. If Buddug James Jones bears critical comparison with that other James there is no greater compliment.

“Hiraeth” tours with a couple of chairs, a pair of boxes and a few musical instruments. Its props are a pen and paper, six plastic tractors of diminishing size, and an item for the last sequence that will not be revealed. The whole lot can be thrown into the back of a medium-size hatchback. The rest is purpose, craft, dedication, industry. And it makes total theatre.

Producer Sarah Jane Leigh has sought out many a new place for the tour. Credit to the Arts Council of Wales whose Night Out scheme has played an assisting role. Venues include Ffarmers, Gwynfe, Barmouth and the first live performance at Brecon’s new venue, the Muse. November 13th sees the arrival of live theatre in that place of imagination and dedication, Tywyn’s Magic Lantern.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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