Tis the season of school nativity plays and carol concerts! TTB and his nursery school class went to watch the nativity play in the next door primary school today, and his somewhat optimistic teacher gave me a booklet of Christmas songs for me to teach him for next week’s nursery school carol concert. I predict it will go something like this:
TTB will refuse to wear the white shirt and will be the only child wearing his normal nursery school uniform. He will grudgingly stay standing where they intend for him to, but he won’t sing – maybe he will have a bash at Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, because he likes that one. Meanwhile I will have to physically restrain TTG, who firmly believes that she is also part of the nursery class anyway, and it’s just my foolish error that means I take her home each day instead of leaving her there too, because she will want to be standing with all of the children doing the singing.
And I for one can’t wait. TTB is not one of life’s joiner inners or performers, but going to chaotic nursery school carol concerts is a rite of passage for both him and me and I am looking forward to it. It seems longer than a year ago that I went to see him not singing in his playgroup one – he did hold up a large cardboard mince pie on a stick though and he did marvellously.
I was Not Mary when I was in the nativity play in reception class way back in 1990. I think I was an angel; I remember everyone getting changed into their white pillowcase costumes and donning tinsel halos in Mrs Reid’s classroom and then being told to choose a friend to walk down to the school hall in pairs.
School plays were a lot of fun. I was usually the narrator because I could remember my lines and presumably recite them in a decent enough way. We did a performance of “The Jolly Christmas Postman”, slightly adapted for a school play, and I was Child One. That one caused a bit of a stir amongst all is children because Lauren, playing a snowflake, had to be the first kiss of winter upon the postman’s cheek (I can’t remember the exact line but it definitely said kiss in the book) and she actually had to kiss Ben P on the cheek! I think all the girls were a bit horrified. Eventually it was decided she could have some net curtain on her sleeves as part of her costume and just kind of waft that across his face a bit.
When I was in year five, the juniors did “Pinocchio” as their Christmas play that year. I was cast as Fire Eater, which was quite a big speaking part and my mum did excellent flamey make up on my face. Great fun until we couldn’t get it off again! I’d never seen the Disney film of Pinocchio at that point and when I did I was most mortified at their portrayal of him as a big fat man!
Unfortunately when I was in my last two years of secondary school it transpired that there was a videotape of that performance, which isn’t really something you want everyone else in the secondary school to see!
The following year we did a Christmas concert in the local church and I read out John Betjeman’s “Christmas”, and sang songs with the choir. I hadn’t read the poem since then until recently, and I couldn’t even remember what it was called or who it was written by. I just had one line in my head about clerks scurrying by and I googled and found it. It was a real treat to find it again, and it felt like wiping the dust off of a long forgotten memory in my brain.
In secondary school, participation in productions was not mandatory, in fact you had to audition for parts and there were lots of after school practices that I couldn’t get home from afterwards. That, coupled with my sheer unhappiness and embarrassment of being in secondary school, and mainly desperately wishing to be invisible, meant that I didn’t take part in any of those productions. It’s a shame in hindsight, because they were always brilliant and I loved watching them. Bugsy Malone in particular was wonderful. I think I would’ve loved to have the confidence to take part, but I never did and I don’t think the school were particularly good at building up the confidence of people who needed help with that. But that’s another story and it’s well in the past now!
I have always enjoyed watching Christmas productions at school and as the eldest of four children I have been to a great many of them! My youngest sister was far happier on the stage than the rest of us and did all manner of things – violin in concerts, and big parts in Grease and The Wizard of Oz. I think my favourite was watching her in Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts and Crosses” at sixth form.
When I moved out and started living with Andy, we were just sort of on our own in Leeds and didn’t really “belong” to any places other than work really. There were no Christmas plays, no carol concerts, nothing that really gets you excited for Christmas and the end of term. Because when you stop being in a school environment and enter a boring adult work life, you don’t have terms and so the ends of them are not marked with fun productions full of tinsel and glitter, and being at school at excitingly late times, like 8pm. That was a big adjustment for me and I didn’t really enjoy it if I’m honest.
I hope that, even if TTB doesn’t really like being part of a performance, that he can find some part of it that he enjoys so that he too can feel that sense of excitement and anticipation that a Christmas production brings, heralding the end of term and that Christmas is coming. I’m sure he will find his place and I will be in the audience every time, excited to be there both to support him and to enjoy that warm, rose tinted nostalgia that a Christmas production gives me. Presuming I have time to feel nostalgic while I’m wrestling with TTG of course.
Were you in a school play? Tell me your best memory of it, I would love to hear.