A Christmas -Michael- Miracle – Scottish Storytelling Centre

Written by Poppy Smith

Directed by James Beagon

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s every parent’s nightmare; the school nativity.

Well, sort of.

Taking the Michael, Poppy Smith’s original script warps the Nativity into a social comedy of the hierarchies and headaches of producing the annual school showcase, where everyone has to have a part, whether they want to or not. But unlike other attempts at the idea, this production expertly nails the tone of being in the environment of those after-lunch rehearsals; the in-fighting, the romances, the petty bickering – this isn’t a sugar-coated Christmas special.

To make matters worse – the drama teacher has bailed on the first tech rehearsal (who can blame them), so assistant directors and techies Izzie Middleton, Eloise Johnson and Teyla Burris have the arduous task of keeping everyone in line and located the now missing Baby Jesus. The trio are our first interaction with Smith’s writing and comedy, they have a firm grasp of the importance of a robust opening which sets up the rest of the show, driven by their attempts to calm a diva Gabriel (Lee Riach), a trio of nonchalant Wisemen/Shepard (Lottie Macrobert-Ross, Madeleine Corrigan and Eva Campbell) and a Virgin Mary who wants nothing more than to be left alone by a besotted Joseph played with visceral aggression by Arden Denyer Willis, with a heaping of sympathy for Edwin Slater’s Joesph.

And if you’ve ever played the odd-one-out at the Christmas Nativity (for us it was Mamma Bear…) then the wide-eyed enthusiasm and sporadic energy of the Nativity Turkey Joe McCredie might spur flashbacks. McCredie along with Polly Robertson and Katie Slater’s Sheep one and two might have a smaller barnyard-style place within the story, but their presence brings nothing but enjoyment and those additional flavours of humour. And like Sampson Lloyd’s shining star of Bethlehem, these less prominent roles enable the cast to play with the comedy and really relish their character performances.

But chaos must descend at one point, and when you have a quartet of teenage ninja Angels, all heaven is about to break loose. Layla Storstein, Lulubelle Neilson, Ella McQueen, and Anna Tribout’s minor meddling leads to a school-wide kerfuffle between warring factions of shepherds and angels, wise men and sheep, Mary and Joseph as the truth is revealed and the desecrated baby-Jesus makes an appearance.

As always though, it’s that little Donkey which reminds us of the core of the festive season and the importance of settling our differences – even if it’s just for that one hour on Christmas Day. Elliot Phipps is the sincere heart of the show and the one performer who downplays their role in accordance with their character. The direction here from Beagon is touching in Elliot’s final speech to the audience and his classmates, where chaos has largely ruled throughout, this softer moment speaks more than all the shouts and screams which have preceded the hour before.

Touches like this elevate Smith’s script which has no right to be as humorous as it is – a remarkably tight piece which transforms the humble Nativity into something farcical without resorting to the cheap shots one might expect. But if anything, improvements can be made by letting rip with the script’s comedy, and there are a few reluctances to fully give over to the character or the madness of it all. 

With another outing, Smith’s The Christmas Michael Miracle could improve its slower transitions and tighten aspects of performance, but the one thing which doesn’t need work: The script, and the dedication from The Strange Town team deliver a festive farce which captures both the hilarity and wholesomeness of the season.

A Festive Farce

A Christmas Michael Miracle ran at the Scottish Storytelling Centre earlier this month.

For further information relating to Strange Town, and how to get involved, you may visit their website here.

Photo Credit – Andy Catlin

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