Nativity plays are a seasonal staple in the UK. Every play group, school, nursery, church and amateur dramatic society will have at some point or another dressed everyone up as shepherds, angels, and wise men to act out the birth of Jesus. I, myself, recall being cast as an angel in a play at nursery school (yes, I know what you’re thinking – type-casting), and as Mary in a church production as a child.
With these plays being so prominent at this time of year, it is only natural for the British to stamp their own brand of humour on to them in the form of a TV film.
The Flint Street Nativity is an homage to every school Christmas play you have ever seen, or ever starred in (no matter how enthusiastically or reluctantly that may have been). It has been fairly near the top of my favourite Christmas films list for a very long time.
The film itself features a primary school class (elementary school to our American cousins) preparing to stage their own nativity play for their mums and dads (and in some cases, their social carers). It follows the children both on stage and off, and delves into the dark realms of classroom politics as friendships are strained and tested by the casting choices made by their teacher, Miss Humphries.
By the way, all of the children are played by adults and the classroom/stage sets are scaled to make the actors appear to be under four and a half feet tall, as eight-year-olds would be.
Each of the characters is memorable in his or her own very special way. From a disgruntled Angel Gabriel who desperately wants to be Mary, to the uninterested Joseph; from the moody innkeeper with a soft spot for Mary, to the cynical shepherd who has her own clear views on the overall story.
And who could ever forget the Wise Man with a sibilant lisp, who is tasked with presenting the baby Jesus with “Frankinthenthe”?
If you haven’t seen this film, I strongly urge you to seek out a copy. It will have you rolling about laughing and will also bring a tear to your eye for its more poignant notes.
Afterall, this is British comedy; we are known for throwing heart-wrenching moments into the middle of side-splittingly funny scenes.
I am sure that any parent or teacher will be all too familiar with most of the characters in this ensemble piece. And I am sure that this film will remain a firm favourite of mine for many years to come. There really is nothing else like it, and certainly no other Christmas film I know of that makes me laugh so much.
Well, maybe one… More on that next week.
So, what films make you laugh at this time of year?
Leave a comment below with your favourites, or Tweet me @RachFarrimond to let me know!