Hiraeth Review Soho Theatre
Are you a river or a rock? That is the question that Buddug James Jones is trying to answer in Hiraeth. A river goes with the flow, but a rock is stable and sturdy and stays put. Which one is she?
The word Hiraeth translates as ‘longing’ something we all do an awful lot. Let’s be honest – none of us really knows what we want to do with our lives – we might go to university, get a job unrelated to our studies and spend our time moaning and groaning about our lives. Yet how many people actually do something about it?
This is the situation Bud is in, struggling with her family’s expectations to work on their farm when she just wants to escape West Wales and move to London. After realising that her boyfriend Ed cares more about toppling Portaloos than her happiness, she takes the advice of a Welsh legend and decides to leave. Despite the shock of everyone in her village – even the sheep and the chickens – she sticks to her decision, especially after her Mamgu (the wisest woman she knows) tells her to make the most of her life.
With live music, mime and a lot of lush Welsh lingo, Bud’s story is helped along by her friend Max (Mackintosh) who plays all of the other roles (casting directors take note – he’s looking for work) and silent David (Grubb), who plays the instruments. Songs are simple, but gently amusing and the chemistry between Max and Bud is quite sweet, although when he plays Carlos the Spanish/Portuguese guy it’s just a little bit cringeworthy. As is the audience participation.
It’s a nice idea, but a little bit too random and the lines between reality and fantasy are a little bit blurred. Bud herself is the first to admit that she’s not an actress so kudos for that as here she is doing this and “THIS IS ART!”
While everyone probably thinks that their life is worthy of a play, it’s not necessarily true. Although Hiraeth claims to have an underlying story about family traditions, our choices and trying to please our parents, the real moral here is that anyone with a vague idea for a story and some kind of imagination can put on a play.
I’m sure that the concept behind Hiraeth is that it is rough and ready and could actually be an improvised piece, but unfortunately too much of it feels forced, especially the constant shout outs to Caroline (Sheard the so-called gypsy doing the lighting), the audience participation (after they pointed out it wasn’t a panto) and the references to the show and actors themselves.
It’s mildly amusing in places and the story is a ‘nice’ one that attempts to include some morals – both hidden and obvious – but it just screams GCSE drama improvised piece. However, I did enjoy the Welsh cake. That was lush.
Hiraeth is running at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 21st March 2014.