Pros: Heart-warming, energetic and familiarly funny.
Cons: Could do with a bit more bravery and imagination in their jokes.
Hiraeth charmingly depicts that uncomfortable and familiar business of growing up. Alas, we’ve all been there. The early-twenties mini journey that sees you leave everything you know. That is, the comfortable cocoon of family life, where nothing changes and the only danger is that you’ll never experience anything new. You end up in an uncertain world where the grass looked greener, the future brighter, but now all under a little shadow of homesickness. Hiraeth translates, roughly, to longing. The sense that we spend half our lives longing for more, longing to take the next step, whatever that may be. Then finding when you get there that you long for what you had before.
That is what is so appealing about Hiraeth, a subject that resonates with absolutely everyone. Acting as either a nice, nostalgic reminder or a welcome statement that you’re one of many in the same boat. In this case, the boat belongs to Buddug James Jones and is, aptly, a life raft. As both creator and protagonist she takes us through her personal coming of age. Bud leaves the farm in South Wales where she was born and raised, preceded by many a generation before her. In favour of the bright lights and high sights of the city. Without much direction from thereon in, playing it by ear and doing so with bucket loads of endearing allure.
She hooks us in from the off with the declaration that she isn’t actor but that she will give it ‘a bloody good go’. From that point on she has her audience on side, fighting her corner til the very end. There is so much energy and pace to her performance and the narrative as a whole that I was flying by the seat of my pants throughout. That energy was even further invigorated by Max MacIntosh who played, well, pretty much everyone else. With all the oomph of physical comedy that he could possibly muster, he exhausts as he multi-roles his socks off.
The written comedy doesn’t quite match up to the high level of physicality. The jokes aren’t daring enough nor do they seem to run deep enough. Short of the go-to classics of mocking where you’re from and what gender you are. A misogynistic monologue in the middle made me feel particularly uncomfortable, something which I’m positive was intended.
All in all, Hiraeth is another example of what the Soho Theatre is all about. It thrusts a platform under a new company, performing their own writing, in their own way. Amidst its trademark festival vibe in which everyone is milling, drinking and watching with specific kind of excitement. An excitement that bubbles from the sure-fire knowledge that you’ll see something boundary pushing and new. A combination that is never going to tickle all fancies, but that has a bloody good go at it.
Created by: Jesse Briton, Buddug James Jones and Max Mackintosh
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking until: Hiraeth stopped running at the Soho Theatre on 21 March 2015