The play was based on a school nativity play. It was written to show how kids gain influence from their parents – you learn how the children pick up their habits. This was shown by the children who also play the parts of their parents so we get an insight into their lives. The plot showed the effects the parents have on their children and links were made to their personality and behavior. In the play, the characters were played realistically; this gives an insight into the many types of children you would find in an average school. The actress who played Mary I thought was performed well.
She was the main character of the play, and a classic example of a type of child – she was the bossy, pushy girl who always tried to keep things right. For example, saying Joseph’s lines in the nativity because he was continually watching his parents in the audience. She used gesture with her hands to emphasize this to show that she is frustrated with the behavior of the other kids. Her tone of voice helps to highlight her pushy nature. Mary’s style of acting was trying to communicate how there is some adult personality in the children from their parents.
This is shown later in the play when she becomes her mother – you can tell she is her mother because of her nature and status, head of the PTA. The actor who played the “donkey” in the nativity was also another classic stereotypical child – the struggling, social outcast in special classes. Most of his way of acting is done to create humour, e. g. advising the child with the lisp to say something he can say – a rude word. His humour is emphasized with his use of voice. The parts of the play in which the donkey is backstage shows an insight into his character.
His way of acting communicates how damaging the effects can be of gaining a parent’s influence. You can tell by the donkey’s father – he was wearing a helmet, which is linked by his son wearing a donkey mask. In terms of staging, there was a good moment where staging was used to good effect. At the end of the nativity, the proscenium arch stage splits. The use of the stage breaking apart was effective because it helped to define childhood from adulthood, and it gave the audience a clear sense that this was a different scene.
A point that relates to the transition of child and adult is that multiple locations were used throughout the play: the nativity stage, backstage, the store cupboard and the playground. This use of multiple locations acted as a mirror image to show change in time, and showed the transition between adult and child views. Also, from a child’s point of view, the school stage made the audience focus on it and made the stage bigger – to show the concept that the actors were children. The multiple staging also reveals the children’s emotions.
The director was trying to create a general effect with lighting. Lighting was used to create mood – red lighting was used to show anger of the teacher. It also helped to define cross-cutting scenes, which was effective, because it helped the audience to understand the location of the scene, e. g. backstage. Lighting also created atmosphere and realism of scenes, for example using the appropriate lighting to show inside and outside locations such as the playground – in the winter dark, and the nativity play in the bright school hall.
A moment in the play when lighting was used to good effect was halfway through the play with the appearance of the innkeeper. Red lighting was used to show the jealousy and angry mood of this character. When the innkeeper stepped out, the stage went red to show his anger towards Joseph. Red also symbolizes stop, and this was used – everyone stopped when he came on. The use of sound in the play adds a general effect was mainly put forward in songs. When Christmas carols were sung, the children sang different lyrics to add comedy and to reveal the feelings, this added insight into the character’s lives.
The character’s own ideas and opinions of life as they sang were put forward, eg: Mary singing ‘Away in a Manger’ while Angel Gabrielle sang her version over her. Changing the lyrics mainly provided the child’s perspective of their parents and remained to stick to the Christmas theme. A moment in which sound was used was used at the end of the nativity. Juxta position was used throughout the music in the fight scene, which was very effective. During the fight they also used a slow carol about peace which added a comical effect.
Costume and props were used to particularly good effect in the play. The use of the star chart, a chart of stars that the kids earned, gave the audience an impression of the characters and this was later reflected by the parents. This was symbolic to the children’s similar characteristics to their parents. For example, one of the kids, Jenny Bennett had the most stars and was portrayed as a good girl and her mother was head of the PTA and was well respected by the other parents.
The children had stereotypical costumes to the nativity play, eg: tea towels, which was effective because it adds a sense of realism to the piece and reminds the audience of the actor’s roles and ages. The costumes used by their parents gave a link to the children because their costumes show their status, which shows how the children relate to them. The props used in the play were oversized, such as the teacher’s tampon, which a child used as a cigarette. This portrays the child’s perspective on what was happening and how small they are to their surroundings, which was shown with the large setting such as columns.
In the play, a lot of dramatic conventions were used. Repetition was used to add to the climax to the first half of the play when the innkeeper stepped out of the inn. The first time added humour and it was more surreal, because the innkeeper glared at Joseph and said nothing. Red lighting emphasized the surreal aspect. At the second half, the same scene was repeated again and it was more realistic. The use of repetition in the climax leads to marking the moment of the scene. The climax was successful due to this.
In the final scene of the nativity, slow motion was used, to show the childlike qualities of each character, eg: being in space, and also highlighted each character’s counter objectives. The use of slow motion also marks the moment so the audience can see what each character is doing. The use of thought tracking through song lyrics was successful because it told what the character’s feelings were and it makes the audience feel closer to the play, especially when humour is added. Overall, the play, to me is a very successful play.
Excellent use of lighting, sound, conventions and staging brings the audience closer, and these points are emphasized by humour. I would recommend this for people to watch, as a cheap school nativity is something we are all familiar with. The TV version of the play has extra characters and humour added to it, and in my opinion it has much better context. But the play is equally great, with its fair share of adult references, which means it could be more understandable for older children and adults. That’s the end.