Hireath, Sherman

June 7, 2015 by

It has taken me five months to see Hiraeth after the work was named winner of the best English language production in this year’s Wales Theatre Awards. If had seen it before the last night of the tour I would now be booking to go again and again. This is a great evening of clever, hilarious and significant theatre from the three performers: Buddug James Jones as the young woman escaping from rural West Wales, the “real actor” Max Mackintosh as every other character in her life, and David Grubb the accompanying musician who, as we are told doesn’t speak much, but adds perfectly timed gestural comment.


 27-WTA Awards 2 web-8603

Wales Theatre Awards


It may come across as anarchic and anti-theatre but at its heart this is an insightful piece of writing and performance that cuts to the heart of identity, relationships, ambition, responsibility, guilt, innocence, manipulation, nationalism and, in the space of about 70 minutes, other aspects of individual growth and development. Now that makes it sound heavy but its success is that it is all achieved in a show that plonks a big smile on your face that never fades (apart from when you join in the singing).

After an odd encounter with Mike Stevens at a rural shindig young Bud (I am sure no pun intended) gets the urge to break out and move to London and the hireath is the struggle between making a life of her own in the big city and  her three generations run farm that it is the heart of her wider Carmarthenshire family.

With James Jones mainly playing herself, this is remarkably refreshing, from when she tells us she is not an actress but she is going to have a good go and at the end when she crazily paddles her own canoe (well dinghy) as she accepts she really is a free-flowing river and not a static rock.

But the show is not just about Bud as we also have Max’s story as an actor and he has a charming interaction with a kid in the audience who added a funny extra dimension to his portrayal of the Spanish/Portuguese stud who gives up trying to get into the potato-like girl’s pants.  Dave also is engaging with his funny facial gestures in some of the awkward social situations that Bud find herself in.

The music and songs are both witty and usually didactic through irony and poking fun at some aspects of Welsh culture, or more accurately, its more extreme and sometime ridiculous manifestations. This fits into the genre of allowing us to take the proverbial out of ourselves where we may take huge offence it was directed at is from outside. In this regard, the show is bigger than hireath for Wales (and frankly much of Welsh hireath is internal and smacks of a delusional nostalgia rather than reality) and could be applied to other cultures and locations.

Handing out Welsh cakes at the end and then dancing us off our feet, literally, at the twmpath after the show, this was a triumph that anyone with the slightest affection for Wales will adore if it comes back to a place near you. It probably says more about Wales in the 21st century than most of the  “serious” drama being played out and is a great unintended comment on the Patagonia 150 somewhat superficial commemorations.

Bud tells us that the her three year’s studying drama design in London was actually a waste of time that left her with a huge debt but as it is at the heart of Hireath it was money and time well spent.


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