Review: Open this Gift Horse

Caravan Farm Theatre's winter sleigh ride production evokes sighs of wonder.

Sarah May Redmond as The Moon shines in Caravan Farm Theatre’s winter sleigh ride production of The Gift Horse

Sarah May Redmond as The Moon shines in Caravan Farm Theatre’s winter sleigh ride production of The Gift Horse

We had to wait a long time to see Whimsy the white Welsh pony-thoroughbred appear in The Gift Horse at Caravan Farm Theatre’s winter offering this year.  But, when she finally stepped gracefully into the moonlight, everyone felt the wait was well worth it. Her beauty evoked sighs of wonder.

Until her entrance, moonlit magic came in the form of The Moon herself (Sarah May Redmond) who entered glitteringly through the window of a drab farmhouse inhabited by a poor, childless couple, Jun (Tim Machin) and Rina (Rachel Johnston).

Redmond’s stylized panache brought light-hearted eloquence to the dourness which had hung over the events until then.  And who could blame Jun and Rina for their dull sadness? They’d just been turned down for adoption. They had no money and nothing left to sell. It promised to be a bleak Christmas indeed.

But The Moon saved the day, or in this case, the night. She presented the couple with a beautiful baby girl moon child on the proviso that she be returned on her 18th birthday.

And there lies the conflict in the play.

Audiences will have to don long johns and toques, warm coats and boots and tote travel blankets and cushions along the highways and byways to the outdoor theatre in Armstrong if they want to know more.

It’s become a tradition in our household to ride the sleighs at Caravan’s mystical outdoor theatre and to witness the magic created, not just by actors, directors, writers and designers, but by volunteer theatre enthusiasts too, serving hot toddies of alcoholic and non-alcoholic content, tending the huge bonfire, hanging twinkling Christmas lights and singing in the sleighs as they jingle through the snow.

At opening night this year there was but a mere dusting of the pretty white stuff, so sleighs were replaced by straw-bale-laden wagons. No one minded. The horses were as elegant and docile as ever and everyone sang carols as we trotted from scene to scene. One gentleman on our wagon sang It is the Holly – a little known Celtic carol that brought home the spirit of Christmas perfectly.

Because The Gift Horse, co-written with Erin Mathews and directed by Caravan’s artistic director Courtenay Dobbie, is based on a Japanese folk tale, Erin Macklem created costumes with an oriental flavour. And Agnes Tong, a fine, beautiful actor of Asian descent, was cast as the moon child Suki.

Adam Underwood, playing Harvey (a gormless official from the adoption agency), as well as Suki’s high school friend and potential love interest Tadashi, added comedy flair with an over-the-top naivety founded in down-to-earth truth. He was easy to enjoy and his entrances (and exits) always jollied proceedings along.

Those wishing to enhance their Christmas experience had better book tickets quickly if they’re to catch The Gift Horse this year.

We’re going again on Boxing Day. That should speak for itself.

According to the farm, there are still some dates available to see The Gift Horse at Caravan, and tickets can be booked at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469,

–– Christine Pilgrim is a freelance writer and actress who covers North Okanagan Community Concerts and other shows for The Morning Star.