Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Molly's Christmas Play 2006

Yesterday was Molly's Christmas play at school.
Now before I go on about it I'm going to assume several things. Most importantly, I'm assuming you have all seen Love Actually. Now I know some of you may hate the film, but the final bits where the Christmas Concert takes place are important to the narrative here.
If you haven't seen it, just think of the most middle class, politically correct Christmas Concert you can and that will probably do.

(while we're on the subject of Love Actually; I have to go on record as saying I love the film and it never fails to set me to blubbing. It falls into the same category as It's a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn and truly Madly Deeply - all film s that I've never sat through without uncontrollable crying. I know it's flawed, I know it's not the greatest film ever, but I just can't help it!)

Anyway, back to the Christmas play.

Firstly it took place at Pocklington School, the local private school. The school hall at St Mary & St Joseph - Molly's school, is tiny (only 108 pupils after all) and couldn't hold the parents. Pocklington school is huge, very impressive (& very, very expensive). The play was being held in the Tom Stoppard centre (the playwright was an ex-pupil), so we all filed round to this huge theatre block. Full stage, stadium seating, lights, mics everywhere with the main cast members having remote mics as well. We took our very comfortable seats in the very big auditorium - no crappy school hall and seats that you can't fit in here.

It started out very well, Class 1 & 2 (Reception, Year 1 & 2) came out and did a quick half hour Christmas story. It had all the classic elements of a school play.
The smallest kid in school wore the sheep outfit which didn't quite fit, so she ended up shuffling around the stage looking cute.
The angels stood there, spreading their arms/wings at random points, one of the boy angels decided to try to balance on the edge of one of the steps on the stage and fell off not once, not twice but at least three times.
But the best, the funniest, the thing that had every parent giggling was one of the angels at the back. Even though we could all see her, she either didn't care or didn't realise, but after 10 minutes she was bored stiff and started singing extra loud, out of tune and just out of time enough to finish each line on her own. Then she starts wandering around the back of the stage to look at what else is going on and finally starts fiddling with her costume, first the deely boppers (angels have deeley boppers?) came off, then she started lifting her angelic robes over her head repeatedly. Every parent was desperately trying not to laugh. Fantastic.

Then a quick hit of the choir, doing a selection of poppier Christmas tunes with full recorded backing. At one point I fully expected the curtains to open and a full band to appear, as in Love Actually with a visiting American diva leading the staff and children in a rousing chorus of All I Want For Christmas.....
But no.

Next it was the Class 3 & 4 (Years 3, 4, 5 & 6) performance. Now we knew we were in trouble weeks ago with this one when the script and the song sheets came home.
It was called the peace child, a very modern Christmas parable about two primitive tribes separated by a river and endless years of violence and rivalry. It had African songs, rapping, modern cultural references via the film crew who were making a documentary (Big Brother, I'm a celeb etc etc) and a very, very loose connection to Christmas:
One tribe's chief gives up his son to live amongst the other tribe and this "peace child" will end all fighting and rivalry.
Do you see what they did there?
Peace child = Jesus?
Given to other tribe by leader = God gave us his only son to bring peace to the world?
(Doing a good job by the way)

As lovely as it was seeing Molly and her classmates up on stage the thing was a very, very slow hour long. You could feel the relief around the room as we all clapped and cheered them as they finished, partly in parental pride and joy, but quite a bit of it just because they'd actually finished. After that there was the traditional milling around of the middle classes and lots of chatting about how big the Christmas dinner parties would be this year and how difficult it is to get any Goose fat now Nigella's let the masses in on our little secret - that sort of thing.

But a good night, strange, surreal at times, but fun. We just have to accept that we've moved from inner city Birmingham to a rural version of Yorkshire circa 1975!


  1. I don't believe it. The "Tom Stoppard Centre". I was an inmate at Pocklington School for ten years in the 70s. We had to study Stoppard plays, and I remember going on a school trip when I was about 15 to see 'Jumpers'. I suspect none of our English teachers (we called them ‘masters’) had read the play beforehand which is, er., rather explicit (we enjoyed it - the adults just looked embarrassed). No one ever mentioned he was an ex-pupil. I’ve long believed there was a conspiracy of silence. Stoppard left school early, and the rumour I heard was that he deliberately got himself thrown out because he hated the place so much, and hence he was never ‘spoken of’. I don't know if that is true. I only heard the story from another pupil when I was in the sixth form. It’s hilarious to think the school now has a centre dedicated to Tom Stoppard.

  2. Well, I was at Pocklington School during the previous decade (1963-1970)and it was no secret that Tom Stoppard was a rare example of a famous old boy (soon to be overtaken by Ade Edmondson). We even put on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead as the school play in about 1969. The school was clearly proud of him then.