Review: The Flint Street Nativity delivers 'a witty pre-Christmas treat' at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 14:53 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:01 18 November 2019
Tim Hardy reviews The Flint Street Nativity, which can be seen at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.
Bright, ill-designed displays adorn the walls, ponderous piano chords ring out and children wearing cobbled-together costumes shuffle reluctantly onto stage.
Just for a second, it's like actually being back in primary school.
The Flint Street Nativity, currently playing at the Barn Theatre, delivers on its promise of a witty pre-Christmas treat.
With all the kids played exclusively by adults, this is a warm production offering a hilarious insight into the chaos behind a Year Two class putting on a traditional nativity.
This play represents a true challenge for the actors; how best to portray young children without descending into condescending farce?
All performers, thankfully, step up valiantly to the task.
Confident, mature performances are on show throughout, pitched ideally to be both immersive and entertaining.
The comedy potential in allowing seasoned adult actors to regress to primary school behaviour is obvious.
The actors grab the opportunity with both hands, clearly delighting in offering questionable anecdotes on everything from childbirth to Christianity.
Aided by a strong script, there are some truly star turns in this comedy romp.
The Angel Gabriel, played by Hazel Halliday, proves the epitome of petty in-fighting and jealousy.
Her ongoing feud with Suzie Major's Mary - culminating in a prayer requesting she be struck down with chickenpox like Herod - is hilarious and wince-inducing in equal measure.
Lucy Winston produces an affably sweet performance as Angel, while Steve Deaville's turn as TV-obsessed Joseph/Herod is energetic and playful.
Ruth Hepplethwaite, meanwhile, delivers an array of glorious one-liners as an inappropriate, tall-talking Shepherd.
Insight into the tragedy underpinning many of the young children's lives is an unexpected - yet hugely welcome - further touch.
As Adam Dryer, playing Innkeeper, sings of his alcoholic, landlord father, it becomes apparent that the mischievous behaviour on show is actually a symptom of unhappiness at home.
The musical numbers are, perhaps inevitably, the true highlights throughout.
Christmas carol classics are butchered by children singing in an almost stream of consciousness style, providing amusing insight into their uppermost thoughts and concerns.
The poorly tuned piano accompanying them - such a staple of primary school performances past and present - is perfectly realised, enough to elicit a shiver of long-repressed recognition.
The set design is also fantastic, offering quintessentially primary school, visually-dubious wall displays and a plethora of brilliant small details.
Bringing in nativity paintings from a local primary school is an inspired decision, pushing the immersion yet further.
This is a show with something for everybody.
Parents and teachers will delight in a nativity where they can finally openly laugh, while others will revel in the relatability and nostalgia on offer.
Start your Christmas early and catch this brilliant show.
● The Flint Street Nativity plays at the Barn Theatre in Handside Lane, WGC, until Saturday, November 23.
Performances are at 8pm each night with a matinee on November 23 at 2.30pm.
Tickets cost £13.
To book tickets, visit www.barntheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01707 324300 (8am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 7pm to 8.30pm performance nights).