Hiraeth at the Soho
The story of Hiraeth is one that many people can relate to. As jobs in the countryside become scarce and inherited farms are not the future prospect that many young people are looking for, current generations are moving to bigger cities. They leave behind not only the small-town lifestyle, but family, friends and traditions.
In Hiraeth, Buddug James Jones, playing herself, reflects on going through this exact experience. She moved to London, leaving behind West Wales, her parents and the farm that her family ran for five generations. After her arrival in the big smoke, it took her quite a while to settle in to the anonymous city and overcome the initial feeling of loneliness.
Together with Max Mackintosh, Jones has put together some dynamic scenes. While she mostly plays the same character, Mackintosh switches characters not only after each scene, but quite often within them. He slips into the roles of mother, father, grandfather, professor, lover and several more. These fast changes suit the play’s comedic tone and trigger much laughter. During more serious moments, however, Mackintosh’s characters lack sobriety and clarity.
At one point the actors get an audience member to participate on stage. It’s the moment that most of the front row is either dreading or used to after years of “breaking the fourth wall”, the imaginary barrier that separates the stage from the audience. Later, the actors reflect on this by ironically calling their play “very Berlin”. A smart joke about the outdated practice of audience participation does not make it less obsolete. Although the play and its actors are charming with sparkling wit, several techniques seem hindering and worn out.
Audiences do not expect innovation every time they go to the theatre. Hiraeth, although it does not offer many surprises, is a lovingly constructed hour of theatre that offers jokes, wisdom, music and a lot of love.
Photos: Jorge Lizalde
Hiraeth is on at Soho Theatre until 21st March 2015, for further information or to book visit here.