Gather round, and hear the tales of poet Dylan Thomas as presented by a group of seven Welsh village folk, in United Players of Vancouver’s A Christmas In Wales. This two-act play (with one brief intermission) recounts a series of short stories, originally commissioned by the Chemanius Theatre Festival for director Sarah Rodgers to recreate for the stage.

A Christmas In Wales
[L to R: Shannon Hunt, Ellen Kennedy, Evangela Kepinski]

Back in winter of 1952, Thomas recorded five poems onto one side of a record, and with a B-side waiting to be filled, he decided to read A Child’s Christmas In Wales to complete the session. While the recording sold modestly at first, it went on to become one of the Welsh poet’s most cherished works.

A Christmas In Wales
[L to R: Kazz Leskard, Gordon Law, Aerhyn Lau, Shannon Hunt, Ellen Kennedy, Andrew Lynch, 
Evangela Kepinski]

Rodgers grew up listening to A Child’s Christmas In Wales, and together with her literary writer father/fellow Thomas fan, set to work on a full-length play that meshed with Dylan Thomas’s rich language. Rodgers even had the wonderful fortune of connecting with the poet’s daughter, Aeronwy Thomas, throughout the writing process!

Photo by Ariane Colenbrander
[Festive scenic painting by Kevin McAllister; photo by Ariane Colenbrander]

Jericho Arts Centre’s compact stage is simply transformed into a wintery forest backdrop courtesy of set designer Kevin McAllister. Costume designer Catherine E. Carr’s period attire complements Christian Ching’s lighting wizardry.

A Christmas In Wales
[L to R: Gordon Law, Ellen Kennedy, Aerhyn Lau, Evangela Kepinski, Shannon Hunt]

Each cast member plays at least two roles, and a few even swap genders throughout the night. And all are very physical when either playing each scene or in some cases, narrating them.

With the flurry of merry stories coming into play, we found that the play grew on us in the second act, due to further development of each character role and personality.

A Christmas In Wales
[Kazz Leskard with harpist Alice Han]

Adding to the holiday atmosphere is adorable, talented nine-year-old harpist Alice Han off to the side of the stage (12-year-old harpist Ellie Lau is an alternate).

A Christmas In Wales
[Back: Ellen Kennedy, Andrew Lynch; Front: Kazz Leskard]

Join the United Players for an evening that celebrates Christmas, childhood whimsy, and includes comedic moments filled with song, dance and storytelling. It’s the perfect holiday outing with a beautiful melodic ending as quiet as the December night.

A Christmas In Wales

Directed by Sarah Rodgers, with Leslie Dos Remedios, A Christmas In Wales continues through December 24, Thursday to Saturday evenings at 8 pm (with a Sunday matinee at 2 pm) at Jericho Arts Centre.

Where not expressly mentioned, photos by Nancy Caldwell.

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