United Players

A Christmas in Wales Inspired by Dylan Thomas, adapted by Denis & Sarah Rodgers

When & Where December 1 – 24, 2023, Thurs - Sat evenings at 8pm, Sun matinee at 2pm | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street, Vancouver

Director Sarah Rodgers Associate Director Leslie Dos Remedios Music Director Alison Jenkins Set Design Kevin McAllister Costume Design Catherine Carr Lighting Design Christian Ching Technical Director Nico Dicecco Stage Manager Emma Graveson

Reviewer John Jane

Sarah Rodgers and her late father Denis have adapted the Dylan Thomas autobiographical short story A Child’s Christmas in Wales into a play with added prose from the Welsh poet plus a few well-known folk tunes. Seven actors (3 women, four men) take on twenty-five characters.

Like most families, the Thomas family Christmases were steeped in annual traditions. Young Dylan’s reminiscences begin with Christmas Eve activities which apparently never failed to produce snow. He and a friend would imagine themselves as fur-capped Hudson Bay trappers as they zeroed in on the neighbourhood cats armed with snowballs. However, I’m sure Christmas traditions didn’t extend to the dinner being doused with a fire hose. Young Dylan’s Christmas celebrations naturally included extended family: uncles, aunts and cousins would have major roles in playing music and open-ended parlour games.

Thomas’s work is a promenade of festive imagery. “One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years....” – indeed, there appeared to be many in the audience that may well remember a simpler Christmas – one without the constant need of electronic devices and streaming networks. A Christmas in Wales is a retelling of a romanticised version of Christmas from the viewpoint of an ordinary family that put personal relationships before anything else.

Kevin McAllister’s Christmas card set looks a lot more wintery than I personally remember of South Wales – but hey, this is Dylan Thomas’ story. Christian Ching’s atmospheric lighting helped define the time of day – or night. Catherine Carr’s festal clothing is evocative of time and place. Special kudos are deserved for the omnipresent young harpist Ellie Lau who shares the musical assignment with Alice Han.

The attempt at a genuine Welsh accent by the players was generally inconsistent. That element notwithstanding, Denis and Sarah Rodgers together with a talented ensemble of actors and production designers offer up a nostalgic festive season that we can all still enjoy..

In his short life of just thirty-nine years, Dylan Thomas survived two world wars. His famous poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" has been paraphrased in film. Around 1960, it was no coincidence that a young folk singer and poet changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan. It was more than just a name change; the Welsh poet had a profound influence on the songwriter’s lyrical style.

© 2023 John Jane