Whatever else you might think of Rhys Slade-Jones, one thing you cannot deny is that he is a master of deception. Within ten minutes of The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People, Slade-Jones has stripped down to nothing but a pair of women’s underwear with the Welsh flag printed on them. It’s sensible to argue that, at this stage, the last thing an audience would expect is an achingly sweet story about rural South Wales – but that’s exactly what you get.
Specifically this is a story about Treherbert, in the Welsh Valleys, where Slade-Jones was born and raised. How Slade-Jones came to terms with his sexuality in this former mining town is important but, refreshingly, it’s only a small part of a much more important story about how towns like Treherbert have been forgotten. Using photographs on an overhead projector, Slade-Jones talks us through the beauty of his town. It’s a world of rugby clubs, fake aunties and uncles, closing factories and discos.
The best moments of the show are definitely when Slade-Jones reads from his mum’s diary, where she talks about being courted by his dad. But it’s also a window back into a simpler time, that simplicity genuinely affecting.
As trite as it is to say, The Land of my Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People is a love letter to Wales, but that Wales which so many people have forgotten about. This wonderful show won’t let you forget, though – it’s beautiful, essential viewing.