Playwright Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, Sign of the Times) recalls the lessons he learnt while writing a comedy about a school Christmas show - The Flint Street Nativity:
Come Christmas, there are always those cynics who dismiss infant nativity plays as pointless charades. What lessons, they ask, are to be learnt in the modern age from watching kids trying to work out what a "virgin's womb" is and how not to "abhor" it? The answer is many, for all concerned – not in the tale itself, but 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 most trouble. Joseph – the docile boy 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’s always one, and the chances are that they will achieve the greatest happiness in later life.) Gabriel – give it to the girl who could have been Mary but whose parents were less trouble.
– any child who won't go on without their best 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.
a world where school football touchlines are peppered with proto-Mourinhos
reprimanding refs for not helping their kids' side win, it's a refreshing
slap in the face to know that there is, and will only ever be, one Mary.
The children play adults, but it is the adults who are forced to grow