Select Page

A (bumpy) Christmas in Wales

by | Dec 15, 2023 | Review | 0 comments

publicity photo A Christmas in Wales

Shannon Hunt, Ellen Kennedy, and Evangela Kepinski (Photo by Nancy Caldwell)

This production is kind of like an old pillow: deliciously comfy sometimes but too often shapeless.

Director Sarah Rodgers and her father Denis have adapted Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a poetic piece of prose that runs about 20 minutes if you speak it straight through.

There’s no drama to A Child’s Christmas in Wales — nothing’s at stake really — but, as Thomas nostalgically evokes scenes from his childhood winters, his language is enough to make you happily delirious: “When I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the colour of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills …”

To stretch the evening into two full acts — A Christmas in Wales runs two hours, including a 15-minute intermission — the adaptation adds seasonal songs that would have been around in the twenties, parlour games from the period, and material from Thomas’s Collected Stories. It even throws in “The Queer Chair”, a ghostly tale by Charles Dickens.

Some of this works. This United Players production starts off with a Welsh song that features cast member Shannon Hunt’s startlingly clear soprano. This opening is arresting. Promising.

But there’s so much new material that the evening soon starts to sag under its weight. There are still no sustained stakes. There’s no narrative throughline either, and no sense of accumulating meaning. For me, Act 1 became boring, while Act 2, which contains the extended ghost story, was more engaging.

Still, there are things to enjoy along the way. Everybody in the cast of seven is charming. They’re not always great on the musical instruments they pick up, but they all sing reasonably well: Hunt and fellow cast member Evangela Kepinski share a memorable duet. Kazz Leskard is puckishly engaging as a boy named Dylan. And the acting ensemble is joined onstage by a young and talented harpist. I had the pleasure of hearing Alice Han, who alternates with Ellie Lau.

Swathed in white fabric, Kevin McAllister’s snowy set features evocative scenic painting from a team led by Omanie Elias. And Catherine E. Carr’s costumes give the show a pleasingly tailored look.

Annoyingly, the accents are very inconsistent: Welsh sometimes, more often Welsh-ish, often generic British or West Coast Canadian. If the whole cast can’t credibly and consistently do Welsh accents, I say skip ‘em.

Under the direction of Sarah Rodgers, who was assisted by Leslie Dos Remedios, the style of storytelling is straight-up story theatre, so almost all the staging is literal. That’s fine as far as it goes, but I could have used more stylistic adventure, as in the opening and closing moments in which the characters rise from and then return to sleep.

This is all just my opinion, of course. A Christmas in Wales is packin’ ‘em in so, on that front, good for United Players.

A CHRISTMAS IN WALES An adaptation, by Denis Rodgers and Sarah Rodgers, of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Directed by Sarah Rodgers with Leslie Dos Remedios. On Thursday, December 14. A United Players of Vancouver production playing at the Jericho Arts Centre until December 24. Tickets

NEVER MISS A REVIEW: Sign up for FRESH SHEET, my weekly e-letter about the arts.

And, if you want to help to keep independent arts criticism alive in Vancouver, check out my Patreon page.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.