Ah, the Nativity, a warming, festive tale of suspicious pregnancies, busy hotels, back-yard birthings, creepy men and ya boy Jesus of Nazareth. A culturally-insensitive staple of any end-of-year school play. Get the parents in, shove the kids up on stage, and watch the magic unfold (if you’re lucky, one of them might cry).
But that’s a lot of kids isn’t it? A lot of kids, not that many parts? So once Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, and erm, the inn-keeper have gone, what are all the other children meant to do? What part do they play?
Well, you’ve gotta make up some wack bullshit to throw their way, haven’t you? Make one of them a snowflake, or a star, or a tree - that’ll shut ‘em up. Let them throw some goddamn snow onto the audience - “Every part is as important as the other, in fact, yours is probably the most important, stable door.”
So taking this well-worn scholastic route to inclusivity, I thought I’d ask you lot what the weirdest ancillary part you’d ever played was - and you did not disappoint:
“I was Fish no. 3 in the nativity - that famously aquatic birth Mary had. There was no explanation as to why we were there, but I was the most junior fish, all the same. We must’ve been late arrivals because we were some of the last on stage and therefore close to the front.
“They had us in vaguely shimmering outfits to represent scales, but nothing more identifiable than that as fish features. In fact, I never considered how out of place it was until your call for stories, so cheers!”
“When I was a little boy, in year five or six, my school staged an alternative nativity play about the Aztecs. I was originally cast as ‘sacrifice’, but I remember getting upset about this and my teachers re-cast me as a bootlicker called ‘Snake Woman’.
“I don’t remember much but I did find the script online (read it here). My job was apparently to sing to my friend Montezuma about setting a new record for sacrifices that year. Here are some of the lines:
“‘Whoopee, I mean good, the gods will be hearty’
“‘We’ll have prisoners to sacrifice and put on a party!’”
“I think they realised they hadn’t given me a part. Clearly I was shit. So they said ‘Why don’t you be the door?’ and some teacher came up with a magical ideal of giving me a hoop to hold.
“So basically I wasn’t the door, I was holding the door”
“I was a horse racing commentator - and this was before Clare Balding was a household name. I wanted to be Snow White’s evil mum - I auditioned and everything - but I didn’t get the part because they couldn’t be arsed to source gelatine-free jelly to mimic eating her heart. So I had to wear awful chinos and a tweed blazer and narrate the nativity in the style of a commentator. I was eight.
“Why? To pep it up, to add a bit of excitement to a tale as old as time. Why not? It’s Christmas.”
“I was a milk bottle with a worm stuck on my arse. Our nativity play had a scene in a house, and a few of us were household objects - I was dressed up as a massive milk bottle left outside the front door and had to turn and waggle my arse at the crowd, because a worm was on it.
“My only line was ‘On my bottom?’”
“I once played a bramble bush in some weird primary school adaptation of Cinderella. Honestly I think I just had to stand there for one scene.
“Also my sister was Cinderella. Cue inferiority complex for the next 25 years.
“I was also once a peasant called ‘Simon’ in the school Nativity. All so tragic. Especially considering my name IS Mary.
“Jesus, my sister was the angel Gabriel to my peasant Simon. I think I need to talk to a therapist.”
“I was a space gnome in my Christmas play once. I have no idea what a space gnome is, or why there was one in our play, but that is what I was. There was a lot of silver face paint involved, but - I’m fairly certain - no actual lines.
“This seemed particularly awkward given I was on stage for the duration of the play - the whole thing - and all I would do was occasionally spin around in circles. This meant I was time travelling, obviously. Maybe I was time travelling back to the Nativity? Fuck knows. I moved school the next year.”
“I was a gingerbread man and my polystyrene arm snapped off and I ran off the stage crying.
“I still remember the ‘snap’. And I knew I’d ruined the play and cried so hard my mum had to take me away. Oh, the shame.
“I must have been six. This wasn’t last year or anything.”
“I was the burning bush in one - I think it was a Moses one?
“I had red tights and a red top on, then was covered in a load of red and gold leaves. I had to squat down and pretend to be Jesus/God giving Moses some sort of advice in this sort of spectral voice - no idea if I pulled it off or not.
“Still, pretty glad that I’ve been a burning bush in my time tbh.”
“I was a tree. A silver birch, no less. Fancy, right?
“I’m certain I was integral to the non-denominational sylvan plot structure. I definitely had to wave my arms around. I may or may not have had a speaking part. (I didn’t.)”
“When I was ten, my primary school decided to take on a new nativity story: The Grumpy Fairy. I played a pink bauble (which involved wearing a tinfoil hat and cardboard circle covered in wrapping paper - humiliating), who wasn’t allowed to be put on the Christmas tree. Not only was I unimpressed and embarrassed by my ridiculous outfit, but I also had to pretend to cry - I’m still traumatised.”
“I was ‘Lottery Robot’, complete with silver metallic wig, in The Nativity Meets The Aliens.
“I was at the front of the stage with a basket - with a silver tinsel trim - full of foam balls with numbers on. I had to pick them out and chuck them into the audience.
“The number that was picked corresponded to where the aliens would go to learn about the nativity and the meaning of Christmas.”
“I was half a door - I couldn’t be trusted as a whole one. I was the right half of it, so I had to stick my right arm out to meet with the other half’s left, then we swung them inwards on cue to let Mary and co into Vodka Revs, or whatever we were doors for, I forget. To be honest, I fucking loved it. No lines, no responsibility - just pissing around for weeks.”
“I was a footballer in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.
“Four of us in line, stood still, with one football. I’d pass it to the person on the left of me, then he’d do the same, and so on until it came back to me. We just kept doing that for like two minutes. We still don’t know to this day why this happened - there aren’t footballers in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.
“They blatantly just thought:
“‘They like football, just give them a kit.’”
“I once played the part of the figgy pudding, most likely because I was the podgiest kid in the class at the time. My abiding memory is a hall full of students, teachers and parents at St. Joseph’s singing ‘We all want some figgy pudding’ at me, as I stood there wearing what can only be described as a pannier dress made to look like a Christmas pudding.
“I am 30 now, with limited employment and no girlfriend. I don’t think it’s melodramatic to suggest the two events may be related.”
Merry Christmas, one and all! That’s including: Lottery Robots, Space Gnomes and right-side doors, of course.