Round John Virgin and other Christmas crackers

PUBLISHED: 00:16 22 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:20 20 February 2013

Round John Virgin and other Christmas crackers

Round John Virgin and other Christmas crackers

Chris Mowbray recalls many a novel nativity script change.

Round John Virgin and other Christmas crackers



Chris Mowbray recalls many a novel nativity script change.



Of all our Christmas rituals, one of the most enjoyable must surely be the school Nativity Play. The sight of diminutive actors strutting and fretting their uncertain hour upon the stage, brings a warm seasonal glow to fond relatives in the audience.



You will probably not be surprised to learn, however, that behind the scenes there is usually a maelstrom of emotions and mishaps which belie the gentle spirituality of the Christmas Story being presented on stage. I have a Significant Other who has taught and some of the incidents she has witnessed make Noises Off, the celebrated farce set backstage during the performance of a play, seem nearly as straight as a Greek tragedy.



For a start, children sometimes turn up with something which is totally inappropriate for their costumes. Probably the best example of this was the time a young shepherd, having been told to bring a tea towel for use as his head dress, came to school with one emblazoned with the legend A Present from Blackpool.



Then there was the year when there was casting trouble. The Virgin Mary had a strop because she did not like the lad playing Joseph, while another youngster refused to be a sheep and would only appear if he was allowed to be a sheepdog. To cap it all, King Herod went down with severe gastric problems during the dress rehearsal and there was doubt for a time over whether he would be appearing at all.



However, I never thought to have heard of any disharmony actually on stage. It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover that there was just such a moment one year at a Solihull primary school. Everything started well enough with Joseph and the Virgin Mary trudging on stage with theatrical weariness leading a cardboard donkey. Immediately, they were confronted by a suspicious looking innkeeper.



Please can we stay at your inn tonight because, behold, my wife Mary here is preggernant and has nowhere to rest her head? began Joseph. Im sorry, replied the innkeeper, but theres no room at the inn. And at that, Joseph froze. He had obviously put so much effort into getting his first line that he had forgotten his second. However, like a true pro. He realised that the show must go on and so he repeated his first line in the hope that his second line would come back to him next time round.



Please can we...because, behold... is preggernant and has nowhere to rest her head? Im sorry, replied the innkeeper again, but theres no room at the inn. It was no good. Joseph still couldnt get his next line, so he sent the dialogue round again and again - and again and the innkeeper gave the same reply. After the pair had been round the block half-a-dozen times or so, the innkeeper realised that only he could move things on. Look, mate, he said, the next time Joseph recited his first line. Dont blame me. Its not my fault shes preggernant. Joseph was equal to the challenge of instant script change. Lo, he replied. If ye read the scriptures, ye shall see it is not my fault either.



It was great ad libbing and biblically accurate, though a purist might have argued that modern sex education had much to answer for.


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