Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Hiraeth at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61). Review by Susan Mansfield
“Hiraeth” is a Welsh word with no direct translation into English, something like a mixture of nostalgia and wistfulness, the sort of thing you might experience if you were the heir to the farm in west Wales which has been in your family for five generations, but all you want to do is go to London and study theatre design.
This is the dilemma faced by Buddug James Jones, which she explores in this refreshing, likeable piece of theatre, accompanied and assisted by her friend Max Mackintosh (unlike Jones, a trained actor).
It’s a choice which has faced young people in rural areas for decades, if not centuries: stay and fulfil the family’s expectations, or leave and follow your dreams.
Bud’s decision takes shape on the night of the Young Farmers’ Club Dance, when the biggest entertainment is the sight of her boyfriend pushing over a portaloo. But the transition to her new life is far from straightforward.
First, there’s her family, who remain largely unconvinced of the wisdom of her choice. Then, there is London itself, where initial excitement gives way to homesickness, a self-absorbed boyfriend dumps her, and the theatre design course is less than it promised to be.
Jones, who is a winner of the Underbelly’s Ideas Tap Award, never loses sight of the fact that her play is, at heart, a comedy. Every Welsh stereotype gets worked over for laughs, from nationalism to daffodils. She apologies for her lack of formal training, but is in fact an enormously likeable and engaging performer, and Hiraeth, for all its pretence at amateurism, is rather cleverer than it looks.
With a sly wink and a light touch, Hiraeth examines not only what it means to defy the expectations of the older generation and strike out on your own, but what happens later when the dream doesn’t quite deliver.
Until 24 August. Today 4:50pm, more info
Originally published in The Scotsman