Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Hiraeth at the Soho Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Hiraeth at the Soho Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Hiraeth at the Soho Theatre
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19 Mar REVIEW: Hiraeth at the Soho Theatre

Hiraeth 1 Ed Fringe 2014 courtesy Jorge LizaldeHiraeth. It’s a word with a glaring Welshness about it, and one that’ll cause many an Englishman to pull a ridiculous face in trying to figure out just how to pronounce it at the ticket office. But perhaps more challenging than trying to vocalise Hiraeth, is the fact that it doesn’t have a clear translation to English; instead, it describes an enduring Welsh concept, of a kind of longing for home. In the words of the beacon of education and research that is Urban Dictionary, ”it’s not mere homesickness. It’s an expression of the bond one feels with one’s home country when one is away from it.”

With a title so tied to the Welsh language, and the linguistics so tied to the concept, there’s a danger of Hiraeth being lost on English, and international, audiences. But it’s a risk that’s proven to be unfounded as the world of writer-performer Buddug James Jones is brought to stage with affection and vigour.

Buddug James Jones. Twenty-something Welsh woman. Writer. Theatre design graduate. Definitely not an actor. When a chance encounter at a Young Farmers party leaves her wondering about life at the other end of the M4, Buddug decides to steer her metaphorical tractor away from the generations-old family farming tradition and onto the motorway, headed for the bright lights of Peckham, London. But can she convince her parents that it’s okay for her to go? And what if London’s nothing like she so confidently imagines?

Hiraeth 7 Ed Fringe 2014 courtesy Jorge LizaldeA (presumably) true story, Hiraeth gives a very personal account of a very personal tale, of adventure, lust, loss and friendship, about a young woman navigating her twenties and wandering off in directions she’d never have imagined. In doing so, writer-performer Buddug essentially stands on stage and says “this is me.” It’s a strange and wonderful thing to put yourself out there quite so much. To expose your mind, your relationship failures, questionable career moves, and even discuss your own stretch marks on stage for all to hear – and judge – must feel quite a lot like wandering up and down Regent Street naked, asking people if they find you attractive. But as a tale of the ordinary, piqued with humour and tenderness, it focuses on the very normal escapades of a woman you can relate to, with wellies and a wardrobe from Topshop.

As Buddug tells us time and time again, she’s not an actor. It’s a fact that’s apparent in the delivery of her story, but having her play herself brings a real truthfulness to the show that no one else could achieve. Despite looking at just one person’s life, Hiraeth isn’t actually a one-hander; Buddug is joined on stage by musician David Grubb, whose face is a silent enigma and whose strings evoke the valleys, a beautiful setting that feels infinitely more authentic than any image of a field ever could. Introducing this beautiful acoustic music really works, though the songs – specifically the singing, and in particular the singing along – are definitely less convincing.

Completing the cast is actor Max Macintosh, whose relentless energy is positively infectious as he plays, well, pretty much every other character in the story. Quirky and funny, he’s just irresistible to watch, even if some of his characters are a little less palatable. The degree of venom with which ex-boyfriend Carlos talks about Buddug and her body feels slightly out of place in what is an otherwise good-humoured show, though Mackintosh’s gorgeously loathsome depiction gives a comic edge that softens the blow ever so slightly.

Enduring no pretensions of being perfectly polished, just like Buddug herself, Hiraeth is a show in touch with its roots, roots that run far deeper through the Preseli Hills than the grass that sprawls across them. Infinitely likeable, and self-critical without veering wildly into gratuitous self-deprecation, it’s a show with a lovely warmth and honesty about it, that makes you come out just thinking, I really want to hang out with these guys.

Venue: The Soho Theatre
Dates: 18th – 21st March 2015 then touring until June 2015
For tickets and information:
Images: Jorge Lizalde

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here