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The Flint Street Nativity
by Tim Firth
The TMWA Clubhouse, Lime Meadow Avenue, South Croydon.
December 2013
Director: John Harries-Rees
Musical Director: Colin Warnock

 

Please click HERE to view Charles Marriott's photos

 

 

 

Click HEREto download a copy of the Programme

 

Review by Andrew Pelling for Inside Croydon.

BELLA BARTOCK has been out and about to see the best of local am-drams’ Christmas shows

Many parents will be dutifully off to see their children perform in the school or church nativity this coming fortnight.
 
But if you feel comfortable with the adults, including grey-haired old men, playing the roles normally performed by schoolchildren, then you might want to see a rather different type of nativity up at the Trinity Old Mid-Whitgiftians at Lime Meadow Avenue in Sanderstead this week, as the Mitre Players perform Tim Firth’s The Flint Street Nativity.
 
The Old Boys’ clubhouse has been expertly transformed into an infants school by the Mitre Players’ accomplished production crew, while the “script” of the original has been updated, and includes put downs of New Addington and what seems to be entirely pointless and somewhat dreary references to Question of Sport. Didn’t that ghastly man Stuart Hall use to present that programme?
 
The cast exhibit well-studied cameos of child-like fidgets and habits, especially Julia Ascott as The Narrator who could be mistaken for Jennifer Saunders in her performance style.
 
The usual school rivalries as to who should play Mary come to the fore and the petty cruelties of infant school relationships are well-played out. Amidst witty performances across the cast in word and in adjusted carols there are potent references to school bullying, homophobia and special needs.
 
The pathos is deftly applied, especially by Neil O’Gorman, Lorraine Price and Ascott as to how the children’s lives are adversely impacted by the poor, selfish behaviour and the disorganised lives of their parents.

This is no children’s nativity play: the Mitre Players in their Christmas production
 
When the cast re-emerges as adults, playing the school’s teachers, thoughtless parents and an arrogant Mayor (another Croydon reference, perhaps? Who could they have in mind?), the Mitre Players do truly bring the meaning of a witty show in the concluding words that the nativity “really brings it home”.



Reviewed by Theo Spring for The Croydon Advertiser (unpublished)

Comedy, poignancy and diva battles were all portrayed superbly by the talented adult cast of the preparation and delivery by the ‘youngsters’ of Flint Street School for their Nativity.


Pulling no punches, playwright Tim Firth (of Calendar Girls fame) scripts the ‘children’ to reveal home truths of their families, the bullying of class mates, the class comedian, the goody goody, the shy and the speech impaired. Unseen and silent, class teacher Mrs Horrocks has planned the play - a role which experienced director John Harries-Rees takes for real, bringing out every nuance of the script.


Jo Morrison as Gabriel has ‘Mary’ envy and plans to usurp Katy Reid in the role. Kevin Hayes as the Star and other stable visitors brings out his inner child in his speech and manner, making the most of his non-stop comedy.  In contrast,  Fraser Macdonald is the taciturn Joseph/Herod who only comes to garrulous  life when playing at being quiz master in his favourite sports TV programme.

 
To Neil O’Gorman as the Innkeeper falls the tough class bully, establishing his physical superiority early on, bringing much audience laughter when, glowering, he is requested to house the room-seeking couple.
The ‘King’ bearing Frankinscense has a lisping speech impediment which Megan Harries-Rees played to perfection, using it to gain audience empathy and solving the dilemma by giving the baby Jesus ‘more Myrrh’ while Tamsin Reeve, the nervous ‘King’ bearing Gold is  also scripted to improvise splendidly when presenting this gift.
Bedecked as appropriate for the top of a Christmas Tree, Tonia Porter towed the line as an Angel, under the thumb of Gabriel and reluctantly obeying Gabriel’s commands not to speak to children who had upset her, whilst Lorraine Price was the feisty shepherd whose parents owned a farm and whose instructions to Mary about how to ‘give birth’, like a cow, brought the house down when acted out.


Using well-known carols which each ‘child’ adapted with new words brought out good voices, with Colin Warnock keeping things going at the piano. Costumes by Di Jones went from the sublime (Spaceman - don’t ask!) to the intentionally cobbled together and deserve their own applause.


The sting in the tale of this play is after the Nativity when the ‘children’ metamorphose into the parents we have heard so much about, and Julia Ascott, who played the child Narrator with a very unhappy home life, brings the production to a close on a emotional note as the Mum who had been there for her child throughout the Nativity, albeit unseen by her sad child