Just last week this intrepid reporter was called upon to watch St. Francis's Nursery version of the Nativity for the simple reason that his daughter was playing Mary. Despite frequent arguments with my wife, who was working, over this I was eventually persuaded to attend as it would apparently "really upset" our daughter. Frankly, I felt that having neither of us there would set Katie up for the inevitable disappointments later in life however as my wife was being unreasonable I was forced to give in (although in retaliation I now have no plans to attend Katie's birthday next month).
A little part of me had hoped that I would be pleasantly surprised by watching a professional looking production but these thoughts instantly evaporated once I entered the theatre (or 'Main Hall' as it was called). The stage area was nothing more than a section separated from the rest of the hall by some orange cones, and it seemed that the scenery was nothing more than a haphazard stable with a cardboard star above it.
The seating arrangements were just a mess... all I was provided with was a hard chair to sit one with no arm rests or cup holders. The refreshments on offer were also very disappointing; all that was available was either water or orange squash. My efforts to procure a programme were equally fruitless.
Eventually I sat down on my chair, and as I waited I was forced to endure the inane chatter of a mother on the phone next to me discussing how it hoped the show didn't go on too long as she was "taking Shanice to see Santa in the Arcade". Well, it was certainly comforting to know that at least I wasn't alone in wanting this ordeal to end before it had begun.
Ten minutes after the play was due to start, one of the teachers walked in front of everyone and apologized for the delay as there were some "backstage nerves" but she was happy to now get things underway. As the show started and my daughter appeared on stage, my heart sank. First of all, her costume was nothing more than being wrapped up in a blue sheet and wearing what appeared to be a blue wash cloth on her head. Sadly, all the costumes appeared to have been made on the same scale of bed sheets, old clothes and wash cloths. Very, very disappointing.
Soon the child playing the Angel Gabriel appeared and while I have to admit, I'd expected a spectacle and I got one... just not the kind I expected. Instead of descending from the heavens, Gabriel walked on from the side (would it have been too much to ask for some kind of harness to be implemented here?) and was wearing what seemed to be a tin foil wings and halo causing me to start wondering if all the props for this show had been secured from the nearest Poundland. Gabriel simply mumbled his lines about Mary being great with child who was the son of the lord before wandering off, as my daughter put in one of the laziest performances I've ever seen. When told that she had been made pregnant with the son of the lord, she simply started at Gabriel as if he wasn't there and never asked any questions. The little boy playing Joseph was equally talentless, simply accepting that his virgin wife was made pregnant by God. Is it too much to ask for a little emotion here? Is it too much?
I was just about ready to storm out, but upon noticing two matronly like women guarding the main exit and with the fire exit behind the stage I was forced to accept there was no escape and started to weep as the teacher narrated about Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey (which simply involved them standing behind the cardboard cut-out I mentioned earlier). Upon knocking at what meant to be the Inn door (in reality, a bale of hay), a small child appeared and said there was 'No room at the Gin!'. While everyone around me giggled, I was quite frankly appalled at hearing a reference to alcohol in an Infants school production. I certainly hope that child got a severe telling off afterwards.
As Mary and Joseph were lead into the ramshackle stable, the three kings appeared and started to offer their gifts only for the middle king to state that he had brought 'Frankenstein' instead of Frankincense causing more laughs. Quite clearly, the people around me were holding these children to different standards than me. I began to wonder if I was maybe being too hard on this production and if I should relax my standards. At this point, I remembered that I am a Daily Mail reporter and am therefore never wrong... everyone around me must be.
While I had been interested in seeing the labour and birthing scenes to work out the range of my daughter's acting skills and if she could possibly have a future in the industry, the whole thing was hand waved when the teacher said "Later that night, the baby was born" with my daughter being thrust a doll (would it have been too much to ask that a real baby be provided). At this point, the shepherds all trundled on stage (with not a single crook in sight, as I had now expected from this terrible show) and the show looked like it was about to end when one of the shepherds burst into tears because he had lost his cuddly lamb. As everyone around me awwhed at this un-professionalism , I was ready to retch.
The play began to conclude (without any effort to retell Herod's slaughter of the innocent, which I was about ready for at this point) but as everyone said their lines none other than my daughter went and replaced her line with "Mrs Birch, I need a wee-wee!" Well, I was obviously livid as I'm sure any decent right-wing parent would be even if everyone was laughing at my daughter's mistake. Immediately after the show, I grabbed my daughter's hand (not allowing her to drink the juice her teacher had provided... do all schools praise shoddy work now?) and dragged her home, where I told her that for embarrassing my Father Christmas would no longer be bringing her the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Equestria Playset she wanted. She cried the rest of the night, but I felt it was a just punishment. Maybe next time she'll think about everyone around her before her own selfish desires.
This nativity was, quite simply, a crime against theater and I hope beyond hope that no-one else has to see it. Everything was of little to no quality... sets, costumes, writing and performances. I called the school afterwards and let them know my displeasure before asking if there would be any more. The woman responded that there would be one next year, but 'obviously' the entire cast would be different. Maybe the next show with learn from the mistakes of this one and put on a real effort.
But I doubt it.