Flint Street Nativity, CADS - Westcliff Theatre, Clacton
Tim Firth's 2006 stage version of the Flint Street Nativity is based up on the 1999 television comedy and this was a very appropriate choice for CADS with many parents and families approaching the school nativity season.
This cast of 11 gave us this observational comedy complete with vendettas, broken friendships and the decapitation of baby Jesus all from adults playing Mrs Horrock's class of children aged seven and eight, and their involvement in a performance of the school nativity play.
The dynamics of the children's friendships changes constantly throughout the play and we see at the post-nativity mulled wine and mince pies an insight into how the little darlings are mirror images of their parents and what perhaps adulthood holds for them. It brings to mind the words of Aristotle. "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man."
The set was well considered and constructed and I wonder how many of the audience noticed the re-sizing of it all at the end when the adults were in the classroom.
Charlotte Root played Mary, who is quite a complicated seven year old determined that everything should be 'just so' and Charlotte delivered this really well. She was the bossy seven year we can all recognise and paired against Natalie Stock as the Angel Gabriel who really will stop at nothing to play Mary, complete with her own blonde baby Jesus. Natalie shone throughout giving us another great performance.
Hayley Farrell as the Narrator was another solid performance, as she felt like the glue that held it all together and clearly her emotions with the break up of her parents was handled particularly well. Alex Bass as Herod (and Joseph) gave strong delivery as the sports pundit, however at times I felt he was a little more adult than the others but it is a difficult job portraying a child imitating sports personalities from the TV and then by contrast he was almost infant like in his waving at his parents so I felt it was a little mismatched but Alex certainly gave a great portrayal.
I really liked both Kayleigh Murray and Charlie Vaughan as the twins. Charlie revelled as the young thug always finding ways to get into trouble while Kayleigh’s farm anecdotes gave us so many laughs, particularly with the line ‘You moo a lot and the baby comes out of your bum covered in yuck.’ Or something like that!
James Hooker had a particularly challenging role as the lisping Wise man and unfortunately for me there were times when I struggled to understand what he was saying as perhaps it went a little too far but he gave a strong characterisation of the part nevertheless and should be commended on maintaining the part throughout.
Ian Russell as the NATO inspired Star found his inner child and in particular his body language and childish stance/walk added so well to the part. Liam Kerr as the Ass complete with cardboard head absolutely came into his own with ‘If there was a God’.
The last (but not least) two performers are Courtney Cooper-Gleave and Jo Thorne. Both gave us great rounded performances certainly making us feel so sorry for these two girls who are picked up and dropped at Gabriel's whim. And I feel I should mention ‘Peter Crouch’ who gave a consistent performance although a little stiff in places!!!
My only comment was that much of the action took place at the back of the stage and therefore better projection and annunciation would have helped us hear what was being said and on some occasions the diction in the songs wasn’t as clear as I would have liked and so perhaps some laughs might have been missed as a result. It is also important sometimes to let the laughs pass and die down before continuing with the dialogue so the audience don't miss anything.
However, in general, the laughs they did receive from the audience were a clear indication of how much it was enjoyed and quite rightly so.
Congratulations to all involved on a very entertaining evening.