Just as the three sisters long for Moscow, Welsh-girl Buddug James Jones pines for the big smoke. Having grown up on a farm in West Wales she’s desperate to leave, but knows doing so will spell the end for her family’s 300-year-old farming dynasty. Biting the bullet, she packs her bags and heads for London, encountering bespectacled art teachers, topless Portuguese men and inevitable heartbreak along the way.
Clad in knitted jumpers, performers Buddug James Jones and Max Mackintosh unravel the story through a combination of plastic tractors, multiple aprons and inflatable dinghies. Accompanied throughout by live music, Hiraeth is crammed with pin-prick wit and hot water bottle warmth. At its best, it’s quirky and inventive stuff, with the piece making no attempt to hide its rough and ready aesthetic. But for all its gleeful enthusiasm, it is ultimately lacking in any real substance.
Based on autobiographical events, the narrative sees Jones attempt to hold up her experience as an exemplar of a much wider issue – as younger generations leave behind rural life for more secure urban futures, what impact does this have on the people and communities they leave behind? But while the decline of Welsh tradition and identity is keenly felt in the piece, any genuine insight is muddied by near-constant self-referentialism and overworked use of metaphor.
There are some brilliant sequences, with a hilarious higher education talk standing out as a particular highlight. But you sense that Jones and Mackintosh are more at home belting out songs dressed as daffodils than they are seriously reflecting on the intricacies of national heritage. “It’s okay not to have any direction,” Jones says at one point. And while this is true, rather like the bite-sized Welsh cakes they hand out at the end, it leaves you longing for something more substantial.
Hiraeth is at Underbelly Cowgate until 24 August. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.