“The Nativity Play” – a review
I went to a small local theatre production today and, frankly, I wish I hadn’t bothered. I should have known the calibre of performance we were going to experience by the theatre. It wasn’t so much a theatre as a small hall in a local infant school! Please don’t misunderstand my reservations, I’m all for supporting the arts at roots level, but the hall we were led into had very poor facilities indeed. The “stage” was nothing but a few benches supporting a rudimentary platform and the viewing area was simply row upon row of plastic seats hardly big enough to support a child, let alone a fully grown adult. Indeed, my ample buttocks nearly rode astride the sheet of plastic, which played merry havoc with my hemorrhoids. There was no bar, so I wasn’t able to partake in my customary pre-play Martini and, most disappointingly, there were no “nibbles”. Not even olives! This was enough to put me in an absolutely foul mood without even seeing one solitary minute of the production.
Well, when they started, I just sat then open-mouthed in horror. The thespians appeared to be nothing but a bunch of children aged around seven years old! It was evident that none of them had formal acting training and, I wouldn’t like to assume anything, but I would be surprised if there was a single Equity card between them! The acting was hammy, the lines were over-cooked, shouted, and, worse still, delivered with little expression. I simply didn’t believe their performances! As for the script, well, I don’t think it could have been less impressive if it had been written by a primary school teacher. The play itself, whilst admirably based on history and fable, was over-simplistic and, quite frankly, tedious. The story has been told over and over again and firmly believe that they should be ashamed of themselves if they were naive enough to believe that they could add anything to this often covered tale!
I have absolutely no idea who the director was, but they should have been dismissed well before this 45 minutes of tedium made it onto the stage. The choreographer and musical director should be ashamed of themselves as the music was unoriginal, without any invention, instrumentally, and the singing was flat, disorganised and grating. The dancing was simplistic, often horribly uncoordinated and amateurish. This is no exaggeration dear readers – the musical numbers literally looked and sounded like they were being performed by a bunch of primary school children accompanied by nothing but an upright piano! Have we not evolved musically at all since the 1920s? Shocking! On the plus side, their “singing”, if you could call it that, was loud enough not to be drowned out by my tutting, raspberry blowing and forceful booing. I got many disapproving looks from the rest of the audience, but I make no apologies for expressing my opinion in the customary manner!
The one saving grace of the whole production was our little star, Bethany. A true pickled onion in a vat of festering puke! She delivered her lines like she was born to take the stage and acted the rest of the cast off the stage, just with her few lines as Narrator #3. It was almost worth sitting though the amateurish tosh and staring at the cobbled-together, crepe-paper scenery to see our little darling show the rest of the actors how it was done. Almost. Naturally, after the play was over, I threw rotten eggs, cabbages and tomatoes at the cast and crew, many of whom ran around in blind panic and sobbed uncontrollably, demanding their “Mummy”, whilst my companion fended off some of the audience who were misguidedly trying to tear me limb-from-limb. Theatre criticism is a tough job, my dears, but somebody needs to do it and it has to be somebody, such as yours truly, who has the courage of their convictions and loves true theatre enough to mercilessly pelt small children with rotten vegetables, rancid eggs and small items of furniture.
Of course, as is often the way, it all descended into one huge self-congratulating pat on the back for everyone concerned and no matter how loud I repeatedly shouted “you should all be ashamed of yourselves!” whilst standing on a chair, it didn’t discourage lots of clapping and cheering. Philistines. I managed to collar the producer of this farce and told her exactly what I thought of this “Nativity”, but she didn’t take my forthright criticism well nor seemed bothered about me giving her play a terrible write-up in my column. I didn’t pay heed to her feeble excuses about them “being children and trying their best” either. That’s simply not acceptable! If all they can collectively achieve, this artistically devoid pathetic excuse for theatre, then they should have never put this production before an audience in the first place!
Unfortunately, dear readers, I am writing this from a hospital bed in Brighton General, because a few of the actors’ friends and family members were waiting for me outside armed with rudimentary weapons and, sadly, I took a bit of a kicking. One always suffers for one’s art, my dears… but the pain of the physical blows were nothing compared to having to sit through that 45 minutes of utter dross! The play closes today, so you couldn’t go even if you were a masochist and wanted to. Personally, I think that’s a blessing, but it does mean that you missed Bethany’s performance. Still, if the production tours and you are ever invited to see this “nativity”, I urge you to give it a wide berth, for the love of theatre! Unless Bethany is in it, of course, because she was simply magnificent.
1 out of 10.