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Flint Street Nativity, Watlington Players

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The Watlington Players have a well-justified reputation for the quality of their productions and their latest offering - a foray into the crazy, often chaotic world of the school nativity play - didn't disappoint.

We all remember the annual school festive drama when all the girls in your primary school class wanted to play Mary and the back-stabbing and petty jealousies resulting from publication of the cast list.

I was always cast contentedly as a shepherd, the costume being fairly simple with the obligatory red-checked teacloth over my head.

The Flint Street Nativity was graphically brought to life on the village hall stage by a talented cast working under the direction of Debbie Bennett and what a triumph it proved to be. The cast's comic capers brought out the laughs and subtleties of this excellent scrip from the pen of Tim Firth (of Calendar Girls fame).

The novel factor in this play is that the children portraying the Nativity cast are all played by adults.

It is laugh-out-loud comedy from start to finish, but there is also a liberal sprinkling of pathos hidden within the rib-tickling dialogue.

There are deadpan delivery of lines such as "the people went to Bethlehem to pay their taxis" and "Jesus is a car painter" this later one from Jenny Lewis's excellent, Wiseman.

In a play where all the cast give star quality performances, it is difficult to award particular bouquets but Liam Baker, as Joseph and Herod, deserves mention as his character lapses into Question of Sport-type trivia and soccer pitch dives.

Watlington Players cast, Flint Street Nativity (5110897)
Watlington Players cast, Flint Street Nativity (5110897)

As the action gathers pace in the second half, there is another twist awaiting the audience as the children become the parents and we begin to realise where the youngsters get their various characteristics from.

Mention must also be made of Megan Abbottt's marvellous Mary, Amy Power's bullying and jealous Gabriel, Holly Wiegand's Shepherd, Sam Lord's wonderful Ass and Allan Lord's excellent Narrator's role.

Director Debbie Bennett was able to draw on her own experiences of playing Mary, firstly in her Sunday school Nativity play when aged eight (with her sister playing Gabriel) and secondly, in a previous am-dram production on the Lynn stage six years ago, to her director's role.

As if all this comedy wasn't enough from one production, we are also treated to some well-known Christmas Carols, some of the words of which you are unlikely ever to have heard before.

Debbie and her hard-working cast clearly had a ball in staging the play as did most of the appreciative audiences in watching their festive frolics.

Richard Parr

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