Fringe Review: Hiraeth ✭✭

Review by Graeme Shield

Hiraeth is a show that will challenge your ability to pronounce Welsh words, your buttocks and your patience – but not much more.

This autobiographical piece of theatre is all about writer/performer Buddug James Jones and her journey to the Edinburgh Fringe via boyfriend troubles, familial expectations and the pressures of moving away from your home to start your way in the ‘big bad world’ of real life.
You’re given a warm Welsh greeting by Buddug and her co-star, Max Mackintosh, as you take your seats before the show begins and Buddug proudly proclaims she is not an actress, and that Max will be performing as an ‘acting life-raft’ in case things get perilously close to amateur melodramatics (and they do, often).

The design of the set doesn’t help to tell the story and if there was a message contained with all the design/props, it didn’t come across. In addition, the lighting design was non-existent. The story itself too often veers into self-referential territory (including a cringe-inducing ‘art’ sketch involving an audience member) and at one point Buddug proclaims she doesn’t care whether we found the story boring or not.

All of this is a real pity because despite the terrible staging, where Hiraeth succeeds is in the raw, enthusiastic heart of Buddug’s character and story. Hiraeth is strongest when slowing the pace down to allow emotional moments to breathe – Buddug’s first moment in London or a poignant chat with her mam-gu – but sadly these moments are few and far between as we race through the story.

I sincerely hope the poorly presented Hiraeth can be better told in future, because I think both Buddug and Max deserve a better vehicle for their talent. 

Hiraeth is at Underbelly Cowgate until 24 August (not 13th).