Arise and hail

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  December 16, 2008

The dramatic highlight of every Christmas Revels is the mummers' play; this one is adapted from Hardy's own version, with appropriate casting: Dick as St. George, Parson Maybold as Father Christmas, tremulous Quire member Thomas Leaf (Barry Reardon) as the Don Knotts–like Valiant Knight, Dick's father (Walter Locke) as the Turkish Knight, Farmer Shiner as the Doctor. The usual Revels shenanigans are out in force: a snippet of "Rule Britannia" here and the Schindler's List theme there, the problem of how to pay the Doctor when "My stocks have crashed, my bonds are junk/And my retirement fund has shrunk." The Saracen turns out to be Quire member Michael Mail (Arthur Munisteri) pushing a wheelbarrow "armed" with four rakes to suggest a laborer-replacing threshing machine — yet another wry look at "progress." This Wessex Christmas might not make Thomas Hardy believe in God, but I bet it would make him believe in Revels.

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