Tim Firth's THE FLINT STREET NATIVITY

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Corstorphine Road

Corstorphine Cast in stage

AND NOW..

Flint Street Nativity - the script

The script is now available from Samuel French.

ISBN:  0573111316
ISBN-13:  978057311131-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre and Tim Firth

 

Flint Street Nativity programmeWritten by Tim Firth
Directed by Matthew Lloyd
Designed by Robin Don
Lighting Design by Charles Balfour
Sound Design John Leonard
Musical Director Gavin Kaufmann
 
Adapted for the Liverpool Playhouse
2006
 
Flint Street Nativity cast 2006
 
 

 

 

Gillian Kearney as Mary in Flint Street Nativity at Liverpool PlayhouseThe Flint Street Nativity was originally a TV comedy produced for Yorkshire Television and aired during Christmas 1999. Tim rewrote the play and added music for this production at the Liverpool Playhouse.

The eight-year-old pupils of Flint Street Primary School, all played by adults, perform the nativity play for their parents. The story is based on real events, collected over a period of ten years from members of Tim Firth's family and friends who were teachers.
 

 

The Cast

Innkeeper - Andrew Schofield
Mary - Gillian Kearney
Wise Gold Man - Annabelle Dowler
Shepherd - Natalie Casey
Gabriel - Leanne Best
Star of Bethlehem - Nick Bagnall
The Angel - Rina Mahoney
Narrator - Paul Kemp
Herod/Joseph - Neil Caple
Ass - Nick Bagnall
Wise Man Frankincense - John Marquez

Flint Street Nativity at Liverpool Playhouse Flint Street Nativity at Liverpool Playhouse

 

 

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE TEATOWEL

Come Christmas there are always those cynics who decry infant nativities as pointless charades, championed only by hypocrites seeking to inoculate themselves against hedonism with a brief intravenous of 'meaning'. What lessons, they ask, are to be learned in the modern age from plodding formation of a tableaux by kids trying to work out what a 'virgin's womb' is and how not to 'abhor' it. The answer is 'numerous and trenchant' lessons for all concerned; not in the table itself but rather in the telling.

For time-starved teachers at the end of term, the casting of a nativity is an object lesson in social engineering and appeasement. In the darkest vaults of each infant school is an unspoken template which can be slapped on any class register: MARY - give it to the girl whose parents are the most trouble. JOSEPH - the docile bay who is happy being led round like a Victorian orphan but would protest at being the donkey. DONKEY - give it to the kid who doesn't mind being a donkey. (There is always one of these and chances are they will achieve the greatest happiness in later life). GABRIEL - give it to the girl who could've been Mary but whose parents were less trouble. SHEPHERDS - any child who won't go on without their bets friend. WISE MEN - any child who won't go on without their best friend but can also be trusted to carry out a simple motor function when glared at. STAR OF BETHLEHEM - save this for the child is odds-on to back out at the last minute. No-one misses the star. NARRATORS - these are your Corinthian pillars. Choose wisely or, best, get the NNEB to read the part in.

During my research for the Flint Street Nativity, teachers divulged more than one occasion of mums asking staff to share out the Mary role, suggesting they alternate Marys between matinee and evening performance and in one case during the course of the show. Having adults play children in a comedy built around the direct results of such mentalities was my attempt to portray how the membrane separating the world of adults from that of children is never thinner that during a nativity. On stage, children act like adults whilst in the audience adults see with infantile jealousies. In a world where school football touchlines are peppered with proto-Mourinhos bawling out refs for not helping their kids side win, and where parents swap schools at the first whiff of negative comment it's a refreshing slap in the face to know there is, and will only ever be, one Mary. The children play adults, but it is the adults who are forced to grow up.

The stinging lesson learned first-hand by children prepares them for one of the toughest issues they will ever have to face in adulthood. which is this: the part you end up in life with may not be the part you feel you deserve. The dock leaf to the sting, however, is that very often what you thought to be the best part turns out not to be so. When I was four I was taken to the nativity at my future infant school. Could I tell you now one thing about Mary or Joseph> No chance. Do I still remember the donkey turning to one side halfway through and shouting from inside his head:" BLOODY HELL MISSIS QUIRK IT'S HOT IN HERE"? Killer line at the right time and you will steal the show/board meeting/political summit.

The following year, now an infant, I felt I was a shoe-in for the part of Joseph following a very promising (ie loud) recitation about our sheepdog. Tragically loomed in the form of a school teacher on secondment. He took over the nativity and reset it amongst kids who were 'in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem at the time'. Now this was in the days before social inclusion had seen a marked rise in secular nativities along the 'Reindeer Who Got Lost' line. Not only did this trendy angle totally nuke the part of Joseph, but it meant that I no longer stood a chance of holding the hand of Mary, a babe who fancied my best mate. Consumed with injustice, during the holiday I wrote my first three-minute play for assembly. In short, I owe the whole idea of my ever becoming a playwright to the nativity, not out of any desire for self-expression but rather out of desire for a girl and her cardigan, sweet with Lenor. I cast myself as the handsome prince, Mary as the princess and my best mate as the arse end of the dragon.

Thirty-odd years later, repeatedly dragged earthwards by fear of failure, I look back to that nativity and the lesson it taught me of free-wheeling, ruthless, single-mindedness. I have never attained such singularity since. There are plenty of lessons to be learnt in an infant nativity, they're just not all on stage. And they're not all about love and peace.

Tim Firth

 

Reviews

****
If you want to see an exhibition of mendacity, backstabbing and naked ambition in action, you really need look no further than your local primary school. Tim Firth's study of infant power-politics is less a cute, end-of-term entertainment than a kindergarten version of the Godfather, complete with seething vendettas, emotional blackmail and severed heads. In this case, it's Jesus who gets decapitated – the outcome of a long-running dispute over whose doll gets to play the Messiah.

Firth's felicitous idea of allowing adult actors to regress to reception-class behaviour was first conceived for television; the expanded stage version is greatly enhanced by the addition of carols in which the children, in lieu of remembering the words, sing whatever is uppermost in their mind. It's a hilarious yet heartbreaking preview of the dysfunctional adults they are destined to become. Dale Meeks's Innkeeper sings sadly of how his father smells of beer; Elaine Glover's Mary reveals the strain of intense parental pressure to succeed; Frazer Hammill lifts his cardboard donkey's head to shout: "Look, it's my social worker!"
 

Matthew Lloyd's production is packed with priceless nonsequiturs, for example from Laura Elsworthy's bluff Shepherd, who has first-hand knowledge of the birthing process: "You moo a lot and the baby comes out of your bum covered in yak." There are inevitably some little bladder incidents as well, but really it is so funny you only have yourself to blame for not visiting the loo before going in.
 
Alfred Hickling – Guardian - Dec 2011
 

It's that time of year again at Truck, the office party crowd are in, Christmas crackers, party hats and tinsel are in abundance. That sparkly dress and an assortment of little black numbers are making their seasonal appearance, that's just the blokes by the way and the kitchen's run out of mince pies. It's here, the season of goodwill, and what could be better to help you get "into the spirit" then a night watching the kids of Flint Street School's nativity play?

Set in a fictitious Hull school the ten strong cast all take the parts of seven year old children who are putting on the annual nativity play in the school against a fabulous set featuring oversized props to scale down the adult actors to a child-size perspective, which is convincing enough to make one forget, almost immediately that these are not, indeed, "real" children squabbling for the best parts and centre stage, as only children can but in an innocent and equally hilariously funny way.
 

Immense credit must go to the entire cast who all put in believable performances which reminded every parent in the house of their own little darlings first attempts at acting, without the guilt attached when you laugh out loud at someone else's child's mistakes. If pushed, I would give the star performance award to Neil Caple for his performance as the Narrator, closely followed by Lucy Beaumont as Wise Man Gold, and Elaine Glover as the pushy Mary. Although it must be said that all the cast deserved a standing ovation for some brilliantly observed character acting of the children who see the world, and the meaning of the nativity, in a completely different and refreshing way to many of us who have sadly grown old and cynical over the years, (me).

Every "child" was a parody of their doting parents and the traits came out, time and time again in their actions and dialogue with hilarious consequences. This was made relevant in the closing scene when the parents did finally appear on stage and amusingly every one fitted their child's description of them perfectly.
 

All innocent seasonal fun which for the majority of the near full house sent them home happy and in good cheer, what could be better in the run up to Christmas to get you in the mood? If only Truck had of realised beforehand that there might be a run on mince pies at this time of year!

Gary Clark  - Whatsonstage - Dec 2011
 
 


IT BEGAN as a one- hour television play, was premiered as a stage show with music at the Playhouse last year, and returns in a new and much-improved version.
 
The Flint Street Nativity takes the simple gimmick of having adults play primary school children preparing for a Nativity play and lets things rip.

Children, as has been said, are just small adults anyway and this is underlined in this comedy/ drama. Just like grown-ups, they have their hang-ups, worries, family problems, personality defects and petty jealousies.

What makes the situation funny in this comedy is that the children are brutally honest in most of what they say. When they have secret thoughts, they are related in adapted lines from well-known carols.
 
Cheshire writer Tim Firth knows children, knows how they speak and what motivates them.
 
Happily, so does the ensemble 10-strong cast which takes on the seven-year-olds’ roles with plucky confidence and plenty of humour.

The plot set-up has two girls fighting over the role of Mary in the Nativity (Kate McGregor is the sweet, intelligent girl who gets it first, Helen Carter chosen to play Gabriel the pushy girl who covets it).
 
Other things are going wrong, including the sudden absence of one child, requiring Neil Caple to pay both Herod and Joseph and an astronomy buff (Karl Davies) as the Star of Bethlehem who insists the star should conform to physical reality.
 
There’s the bullying inn-keeper (Alan Stocks) who has a crush on the Nativity Mary (he allows her into the inn but not Joseph) and the boy with a lisp (Daniel Casey) playing a wise man and upset that he has to present frankincense, a word he has problems pronouncing properly.
 
There are gags like the boy who judges a woman’s age by the tag in her jumper 38-40, and a peculiar-looking stuffed donkey from Spain that says rude phrases if the ears are pulled (the wait for them to be pulled is worth it).
 
But Firth also suggests in the children’s words and actions the problems they face at home, from a father in prison to a parental split. From children’s mouths, they have a certain poignancy.
 
The final act in which we meet the parents has been streamlined, but still tells us all we need to know about dysfunctional families and their effects on youngsters.
 
The play has some TV names, Kate McGregor (Emmerdale’s Emily Dingle) and Daniel Casey (Sergeant Troy from Midsomer Murders), but, under director Matthew Lloyd, this is very much a joint effort all round and a welcome, different Christmas show.
 

Philip Key - Daily Post - Dec 2007

THE FLINT STREET NATIVITY
 
Like many people, Tim Firth's first stage experience came in the school Nativity play. Denied the role of Joseph, he lost his chance of holding the hand of the girl playing Mary, who was in love with his best mate. So during the holidays he wrote his first play, casting himself as a prince, Mary as the princess and his mate as the back end of a dragon.
 
It says much for the influence of our infant years that he's still trying to work it out of his system. Firth's script, adapted from his television play, features as many fluffed lines, missed entrances and cardboard props as you will find in the professional theatre. It also exposes what an ungodly snake pit of paediatric power-politics the staging of your average Nativity play can be.
 
Some argue the traditional Nativity should be replaced with more secular entertainment, and having seen this you can only agree - there's as much piety involved as a cabal of Borgias electing the next Pope. But though we learn little of the Christian message of redemption, we do discover that the Holy Infant doubles as an extremely effective cudgel.
 
With the possible exception of Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills, the conceit of adult actors portraying children is usually embarrassing - but Nativity plays are crucibles of embarrassment anyway, so Matthew Lloyd's cheerfully chaotic production turns such awkwardness to advantage. Best of all is the manner in which Firth uses naive comedy to suggest the greater disruption of the children's lives: "Look! There's my mum!" declares Joseph. "Look! It's my social worker!" replies the Donkey. There are moments where you may wet yourself laughing. But it's your own fault for not visiting the toilet first.

Alfred Hickling - The Guardian

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More...

aTHE FLINT STREET NATIVITY was Liverpool Playhouse's Christmas show for the second year in a row! The seasonal comedy, which in 2006 broke box office records and became the theatres most successful Christmas show ever, was repeated for the 2007/08 season. The young pupils of Flint Street Primary School, all played by adults, perform the nativity play for their parents. The story is based on real events, collected over the years from Tim's family and friends who were all teachers.
 
 
 
aAVAILABLE NOW ON DVD
a
 
Tim Firth's hilarious and poignant seasonal tv comedy has a cast-list that reads like a Who's Who of British comedy and was filmed on an oversize set to make the actors' characters all the more believable.
 
IMC VISION LTD
CAT: IMC586D

 

 

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