“Never work with animals or children” WC Fields.
The lights are low. Anticipation in the hall is building. The audience is seated; a sea of smart phones and tablets held aloft, poised to record. Tinsel has been artfully draped over the podium and glittering stars hung at the front of the stage. Velvet curtains twitch. Mrs Dolores fusses.
“Now come on children, take your places, just like we practised.”
A very small sheep, who is still in nappies, shuffles her way toward the wings. She’s intercepted by her ayah, dressed in black, who swivels her around to crawl back in the right direction. Mary and Joseph’s parents are bursting with pride but little do they know that their children are not talking. Mary finds it SO annoying the way Joseph bosses all the time but doesn’t know the words to any of the songs. And Joseph is annoyed that Mary always gets to play with the baby.
There’s a problem with the sound system. When the music starts to play, microphone feedback screeches. Slowly, haltingly, the curtains are drawn back. Pitch darkness descends and everyone gasps. Two minutes later, when the lights come back on again, everyone in the audience says ‘ahhh’.
“Er, is there any room at the inn?” Asks Joseph, scratching one ear under a kikoy headdress.
Mary drops the ‘donkey’ hobby horse which is actually a giraffe and it clatters to the floor. One shepherd tuts.
“Yes,” says the innkeeper’s wife before being elbowed in the ribs by the innkeeper himself. She corrects herself, “Actually no.”
Mary picks up the giraffe/donkey.
“You can go over there.” The innkeeper says in a tiny voice, pointing to a cardboard rendition of a stable furnished with hay bales.
Mary goes with Joseph to the ‘stable’ and sits down but there’s an angel perched just above, digging her knees into Mary’s back. Piano music starts up. The cast break into song. The verses are quiet but the chorus sung boisterously. A parade of nativity play extras process across the stage two-by-two, the younger ones herded by a band of adult helpers. One mum stands up and waves.
Wambui, a pink tutu-ed angel pulls off her tinsel halo and waves.
The angel Gabriel, meanwhile, is mounting a small stepladder, getting tangled up in his robes.
“Blessings to all people on earth,” he announces as the spotlight seeks about the stage to find him. “And peace to everyone.” He makes a peace sign. The audience laughs.
Mary and Joseph wrestle over the plastic baby stored behind a hay bale. Fortunately nobody notices as it’s the same moment that the kings arrive, dancing about the stage to the sound of ‘Walk like an Egyptian’. Daniel waggles his sunglasses at the audience and they clap along. It’s time for the grand finale. The sheep are out of control again and the innkeeper’s wife falls off the bed. The spectacle comes to a hasty end with a raucous carol. The relief on the faces of the teaching staff is palpable.
The play ends with a photo opportunity that lasts almost as long as the play, then everyone enjoys a mince pie. The stars of the show appear, ready to go home, make-up looking out of place with their home clothes. “Darling, you were wonderful”. “Best Christmas concert ever.”
Roll on next year.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.com