Hiraeth (Edinburgh Fringe)

This charming tale of leaving behind tradition in favour of the big city is ultimately lacking in depth

Buddug James Jones and Max Mackintosh
Buddug James Jones and Max Mackintosh
© Jorge Lizalde

Buddug James Jones is not an actor. The theatre designer is keen for us to know this at the outset of her new show, which takes a light-hearted dip into her Welsh farming heritage and eventual escape to the Big Smoke. But she’s roped in best mate Max Mackintosh (who is an actor, as he repeatedly reminds us) and she’s going to give it a bloody good go.

This knowingly amateurish opening sets the tone for what follows, as we are taken on a breakneck tour of Jones’ life to date. The style is self-consciously wonky, revelling in its necessarily DIY aesthetic. An admirably game Mackintosh frantically swaps hats and roles, playing everyone from Jones’ elderly grandmother to her Portuguese love interest, while the set consists mostly of kitchen chairs and toy tractors.

Jones might not be an actor, but she’s charming enough to just about get away with this potentially irksome level of whimsy. The endearingly hyperactive delivery, meanwhile, ensures that our attention is given little opportunity to drift as Jones tells us about her family’s history of farming, the wrench of her departure for London and her unexpected homesickness after finally making it to the big city.

But the problem with this kind of ironic amateurism, appealing as it may be, is that ultimately it lets the artists off the hook. Look a little harder, and it’s tricky to say what Jones is actually doing beneath all the madcap charm. There are nods towards mid-20s crisis, the disappearance of Welsh tradition and the difficulty of defining art, but little more than nods. And charm, as Jones knows from the experiences she relates in the show, will only take you so far.

Hiraeth runs at Underbelly Cowgate until 24 August.