The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People

With the aid of just an overhead projector, his mum’s diary, and a series of increasingly revealing costume changes, it is remarkable how effectively Rhys Slade-Jones is able to transport you to the Welsh village of Treherbert. But then given what a natural performer and adept storyteller he is, perhaps this shouldn’t be such a surprise. 

Recounting stories of his youth, Rhys paints a vivid picture of life growing up in rural Wales. A coming of age tale punctuated with humorous extracts from the aforementioned diary and the occasional Welsh history lesson; Rhys speaks with the confidence and authority of generations past. 

It’s not something he is unaware of, mentioning a form of ancestral haunting; a feeling of never being able to see or go anywhere previous generations had not already done so. In this light, the Edinburgh festival feels somewhat far from home, and yet it’s difficult to imagine a more natural environment for Rhys’s story. 

Slick is not the word, but then it doesn’t seem the place either. The raw, at times aggressive, but always heartfelt D.I.Y. performance style, lending itself to tales of a community turning to D.I.Y. solutions out of austerity-driven necessity. 

As it happens, Rhys is this year’s recipient of The Common Award, an initiative put together by both Pleasance Theatre and Common, aiming to give working-class performers the support and opportunity to showcase their work at the fringe. It is refreshing then to see the success of such a scheme, designed to combat the increasing costs and inaccessibility associated with the Edinburgh Festival.

This, coupled with the underlying theme and one of the more bittersweet moments from Rhys’s performance, leaves the viewer with a semi-optimistic feeling that answers exist where grassroots community finds a way, but more could be done from those higher up. The injustice of this is not lost, nor the poignancy of such a message being performed here at what can increasingly feel like a very middle-class arts festival.

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