archive
links
essays

A Child's Christmas in Wales

[The following review ran in the Denver Post on December 4th.]

As the winter solstice approaches and the nights grow long, our consciousness naturally turns inward, stirring memories of past holidays. For Dylan Thomas, in his classic narrative poem, A Child's Christmas in Wales, these remembrances of the season are symbolized by the deep, formless snows of his youth.

(Left to right) Stephen Weitz, Orion Pilger, and Cambria Pilger
(L to R) Stephen Weitz tells a story to
Orion Pilger and Cambria Pilger
Photo: Glenn Asakawa, CU Communications
Reprising last year's successful venture into Yuletide programming, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival restages the adaptation of Thomas' cherished narrative verse as originally developed by CSF artistic director Philip C. Sneed with his former ensemble at The Foothills Theatre in Nevada City, California.

Sneed's cast of six is an impressively flexible lot, switching genders and generations with ease, while forming a delightfully melodious sextet that enhances the rich language of the poem, evoking dormant recollections of family and friends, hearth and home, by interweaving carols, hymns, lullabies, and a short rendering from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

As Thomas writes, "It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland ... I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find."

What he finds is a sparkling collection of vignettes that resonate with our own experiences: throwing snowballs at feral cats, the fire truck arriving to douse a stove-induced blaze, wrestling with his brother in the snow, the postmen bravely trudging through a blizzard, and, of course, the presents, each delivered in its own bow-wrapped parcel.

(Left to right) Karyn Casl, Matt Mueller, and Rebecca Remaly as the three postmen
(L to R) Karyn Casl, Matt Mueller,
and Rebecca Remaly as the three postmen
Photo: Glenn Asakawa, CU Communications
As the stories unfold, the players—the precocious children (Cambria and Orion Pilger) and multitalented adults (Matt Mueller, Karyn Casl, Stephen Weitz, and Rebecca Remaly)—act out Thomas' witty, descriptive passages while luxuriating in his rich, inventive language: three postmen comically tap dance; a dirge-like interpretive movement captures the essence of a dying robin as it laid to rest by the boy; the uncles, satiated from the endless courses of the Christmas meal, snore in the corner; a red-eyed owl spooks the kids while they sing carols at a desolate house on a starless night.

Most delightful among a slew of beautifully rendered musical numbers (directed by Remaly)—including "Deck the Halls," "Christmas is Coming," "Good King Wenceslaus," and "All Through the Night"—is the finale, "A Welsh Lullaby" (Suo Gan), which you may recall as the show-stopper from the score of Stephen Spielberg's film, Empire of the Sun.

Ensemble watches the star alight on the rising Tannenbaum
Ensemble watches the star alight
on the rising Tannenbaum
Photo: Glenn Asakawa, CU Communications
In a world gone mad with rabid shoppers stomping clerks to death in a frenzied rush to find bargains, Thomas' pastoral images, as they are brought to life in this nostalgic, four-dimensional Christmas card, beseech us to rediscover a sense of proportion commensurate with the spiritual events we are supposed to be celebrating.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales runs through December 31st. 303-492-0554 or at www.coloradoshakes.org.

Bob Bows

 

Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster