Comedy biography from the valleys and back again
This article is from 2014.
Buddug James Jones comes from four generations of farmers. Weary of a life of cider-black, village gossip and a boyfriend whose idea of fun is upending the Portaloo at the Young Farmers disco, she decamps for London. There, after many solitary dinners of cold beans and a disastrous relationship with Portuguese Carlos who suggests she wear a bowler hat and go busking as Mr Potatohead, she becomes a theatre designer.
Hiraeth, the winner of the 2014 IdeasTap Underbelly Award, is the true story of her life. Bud herself takes the starring role and a lovely young man, who reminds us regularly that he is a real actor, plays the guitar and all the other parts, including a chicken, a sheep and several of Bud’s ancestors. It is told in a format familiar from children’s shows, with lots of horsing around, the odd song, toy tractors and a memorable interlude in Welsh traditional costume (including a daffodil headdress).
Yet it’s a serious subject. Hiraeth is a Welsh word with no direct translation, loosely meaning nostalgia, wistfulness and a longing for a past that might not even have really existed. What happens to Welsh farms when the Buds of this world – spunky, smart, unafraid to appear in public in a spectacularly awful vegetable-adorned sweater – leave? And how does such a person navigate the terrifying nightlife of east London?
There are no easy answers here but many, many laughs. Unlike several recent hand-wringing Scottish productions, Jones explores national identity and connection to the land with a light touch. Perhaps because there is no referendum vote in the offing, she is able to have fun with important issues and national stereotypes without apology or cringe. She even hands out Welsh cakes, made by her mother, at the end of the show. Result.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug (not 13), £11 (£10).