City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Corstorphine Road Nativity Review

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 08 December 2009

The Corstorphine Road Nativity
Show Details
Festival Theatre Edinburgh
Joanna Read (Director), Tim Firth (Writer), Nancy Surmon (Set and Costume Designer), Robert Pettigrew (Musical Director)
Shabana Bakhsh (Angel), Jimmy Chisholm (Innkeeper), Sara Crowe (Gabriel), Ryan Fletcher (Herod/Joseph), Gordon Kennedy (Narrator), Jane McCarry (Wise Gold), Steven McNicoll (Star of Bethlehem/Ass), Colin McCredie (Wise Frank), Julie Wilson Nimmo (Mary), Gail Watson (Shepherd).
Running time: 

Children and theatre - never the twain should meet, except at Christmas.

This is a concept that is laughed at, literally, in Tim Firth’s newest adaptation of his take on the nativity, first seen on television in 1999 and then adapted for the stage with music, where it enjoyed a highly successful Liverpool run. Firth has created an exclusive version for the EFT and relocated the play to Edinburgh with lots of local references – yes, there’s a mention of them damn trams.

Not only is this production to be applauded for being a refreshing alternative to the usual offerings of dreary pantos during this festive period, it also provides 90 minutes of pure entertainment and plenty of laugh out loud moments.

Ten adult actors play a cast of seven-year-olds putting on their annual nativity under the vigilant eye of their hairy-lipped teacher, Miss Mochrie. Although we never see Miss Mochrie, we feel for her. The play she’s dotingly produced has turned into a complete farce.

The class pet playing the Virgin Mary (Julie Wilson Nimmo) has fierce competition from the jealousy malicious class bully playing Gabriel (Sara Crowe) and the Wise Man bringing Frankincense (Colin McCredie) is struggling with being verbally challenged by his lisp. Meanwhile Joseph/Herod (Ryan Fletcher) is more interested in parent spotting and his obsession with A Question of Sport, the Innkeeper (Jimmy Chisholm) behaves like a psycho who won’t stop sniffing Mary and the Star of Bethlehem/Ass (Steven McNicoll) is a know-it-all space geek with a potty malfunction. To top it all, baby Jesus loses his noggin.

The fluffed entrances, forgotten lines and shameless upstaging turn this nativity into a hectic charade. Set against Nancy Surman’s classroom set which cleverly dwarfs the fully grown adults in size, Joanna Read’s direction is fast-paced and physically lively as we’re reminded that relationships in primary school are just as complicated as in adult life, the humourous difference being that kids speak with razor-sharp candor.

Frith has effortlessly created a show that acutely observes that what a child says or does is merely aping habits picked up at home and either uproariously or heartbreakingly misinterpreting them. The clever use of traditional carols with the children’s alternative interpretive lyrics provides ideal wit that suggests the disruption to the children's lives.

While there are more than enough naive revelations and playground politics to create an accurate picture of the parents, it's a great turn by Firth to bring on the adult counterparts after the play has reached its horrendous conclusion. The actors return as the mums and dads of the children they've just played, mingling over the usual festive foods and mulled wine. There's no mistaking where the children have come from or where they are inevitably heading.

The castings of adult actors portraying children is usually awkward but as nativities are emblems of embarrassment, Firth’s script and Read’s cheerfully chaotic creation turns this to advantage in a play that is easy to enjoy and performed with gusto by a cast who are clearly having a merry old time.

Times: til 19 December

More Edinburgh Christmas Shows

© Lindsay Corr, December 2009