So, it’s not the easiest of titles to keep incorporating into a review. But. If there was one performance that I would enthusiastically recommend, so enthusiastically I risk putting off anyone I’m recommending it to, it’s The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People. I mean admittedly I was put off too. The image used for the Edinburgh Fringe screams Wales. And upon entering the theatre space you’re greeted warmly by a person adorned with a horse head. But when did first impressions ever count?
Rhys Slade-Jones takes you through the most heartwarming and energetic tale of life in Treherbert. Instantly identifying and creating rapport with the audience, we are treated to a brief history of Wales, before being completely immersed in life growing up in the Rhondda Valleys.
If this sounds too colloquial. It’s not. There’s so much about growing up in a community which enables knowing nods. Which somehow, and quickly, move into tears of laughter. Never is so much joy found in reliving the joys of OHP presentations, reading your mum’s diary, and recounting evenings down the club.
I walk away with an in depth understanding of Treherbert Rugby Club, its architecture and decor. I wonder why I’ve retained this new knowledge but I’m a little tempted to visit to check for accuracy.
And it’s in the detail which the love is shared. I loved the accuracy, the footnotes of the habits and traditions. There were some in the audience who grew up in the same area, people like me who grew up in Wales, and others who just relate to the idea of ‘joking aunties’ (my children have at least four) and communities where there was always someone to keep an eye on the children.
Rhys Slade-Jones appears as a magician of storytelling. Admittedly, his magician’s outfit ends up being a pair of boxer shorts adorned with a Welsh flag design. And this isn’t a homage to all that is good and prosperous in Wales. There is a frank yet endearing nature to his challenges growing up as a gay Welshman in a family of rugby players.
What this storytelling allows is the change from humour and laughter to the ever changing realities. Taking away significant employers which communities have emerged around creates a greater loss than simply employment. Removing services which support families damages communities and lives.
As I walked away, there was a ridiculous reality. I can have all of my online friends, my college friends, my work friends. But when I’ve got a child who’s ill and I need to get the other two to school. When the summer holidays are in full swing and I need to take my OH to a hospital appointment. Where are my children’s joking aunties? Why does busy take us away from our community?
Life in the Valleys, and further afield, were built around people looking out for each other. Open door policies, children playing in the streets, joking aunties on call for a cup of tea or to watch the kids, sessions down the club to wash away a week at work.
How does this conversation and support happen in a world which has moved online?
But I’ve ridiculously digressed. Rhys Slade-Jones takes people on his journey with a generous spirit. Tears of laughter and sadness perhaps. And whilst there is sadness, there’s a story of kindness, not of halcyon days but of a community which made families better.
So yes, so if you can. You should. The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People just is everything people should seek out.
The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People is at the Pleasance Courtyard as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. You can see the production at 14.15 until Monday 26th August.
Disclosure: This review is part of media accreditation for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. All views and opinions contained are my own.