Review: The Nativity in Holy Trinity Church Haddenham Cambridgeshire

The fifth Haddenham Nativity lived up to its established reputation – an excellent show with memorable characters, realistic crowd scenes, great live music, an engaging down-to-earth script, fantastic costumes  and effects – the list is endless.

On early arrival at Holy Trinity Church there was hardly a seat to be found. A background of bird calls, an inspiring set in the east end of the Church and a general atmosphere of buzzing expectation indicated that it was going to be a good night’s entertainment.

This show was more than mere ‘entertainment’ – it was a most appropriate presentation for the Christmas season. Under the directorship of Leslie Stewart, The Nativity, the story of the birth of Jesus, usually reduced to a gathering of excited children wearing tea towels, became a highly professional adult presentation of events that entertained and educated the audience and participants.

Storyteller Artaban (Ian Ashmeade) coordinated scenes in a very friendly and approachable manner. All the characters from the era appeared: the much-troubled Joseph (John Shippey), a reluctant Mary (Eppie la Rue), the evil, powerful King Herod (Bruce Pattern), the zealous prophet John the Baptist (Ronan Sheehy) and the alluring but callous Salome (Luci Maltby), Herod’s future wife. Other strongly portrayed characters included the three Magi: Caspar (Paul Smith), Melchior (Rev. Jim Mullins), Balthazar (Rev. Fiona Brampton), Herod’s watchful sister-in-law Herodias (Diana Lock), the all-knowing adviser to Herod, Marcus (Stuart Findlay), The Shepherds played by Roger Pratt, Nick Law and Roy Stubbings, the ever practical Midwife (Christine Battersby), Mary’s friend Rachel (Joanne Flinders) and the adult Jesus (Daniel Walker). No Nativity would be complete without support from centurions (Chris Prescott and Geoff Maton), Roman soldiers (Andy Foster and David Gander), alternative storytellers (Miranda Pratt and Kate Findlay), suitors/scribes (Moti Meroz and Roy Stubbings) and a host of people forming the choir, the crowds, the girls at the Annunciation, the Shepherd Boys and the Children of Bethlehem.   

Producer/writer Sarah Burton knew how to engage to audience. How could the listeners not empathize with the restless soon-to-be father asking: “Is there anything I can do?”, only to be told by the midwife: “I think you have done enough already, don’t you?”? or the Shepherd moaning that his life is nothing but “Eat, sleep, sheep”.

Musical Director Cathy Priestly and Assistant Musical Director Natasha Cox produced sounds that enhanced the atmosphere positively and appropriately throughout the production. The final jazzy “Alleluia” sent the listeners home with a strong sense of elation that the season creates in even the most resilient of citizens.

Vibrant costumes, effective lighting (Robin Emery Theatre Services) and sound (Roy Truman Sound Services), polished performances, attractive choreography and carefully timed dramatic episodes all made this production unique. Issues that complicate our lives today were made very real: such as the stubborn, reluctant teenager; the bewildered new father or the brutality of a jealous, powerful despot.

Another notable highlight was the inclusion of so many local children. The ‘ah’ factor was never lost, one of the most memorable examples being the exotic entourage accompanying the three Magi. The screams of the Children of Bethlehem when Herod’s men came to kill them sent unforgettable shivers down the spine and the powerful spirited wind, eerie music and light that streamed from above made the visions credible contributions to events. 

This community event, created by the community for the community was only made possible by the generous support of local sponsors, the principal of these being Haddenham Charities, ADeC and Hereward Books. It is events like these that highlight the anomalies of Lottery donation criteria. Because an event is a repeated one, this surely should not deny it further support.  

Contact: http://www.haddenham.org.uk

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