REVIEW: Unique Wivelsfield nativity is amusing, scary and uplifting

Mary (Holly Leggett) and Joseph (Jeremy Nurse).  Picture by Joe Mott
Mary (Holly Leggett) and Joseph (Jeremy Nurse). Picture by Joe Mott

The Nativity, Wivelsfield Parish Church

The sixth outing of The Nativity was brought to life by director Paul Welch at Wivelsfield Parish Church by the Church and Wivelsfield Little Theatre, running for five nights at the end of November.

Like all five previous incarnations since 2003, it was moving, amusing, scary and uplifting in turns.

In the beautiful candle-lit surroundings Mark Orchin’s minstrel entertained, providing a fitting start to the evening.

Paul Welch’s welcome to the evening as Isaiah gave way to the actors playing their parts perfectly – Holly Leggett gave her Mary a range of emotions: in awe when visited by Gabriel (a kindly Mark Newey), frightened by the wrath of Joseph when he thought he had been wronged, brave when she had her baby and tender as the young mother.

Jeremy Nurse’s Joseph came over as a genuine, father-like figure to his young wife, protecting her and the new-born and showing the joy as he bounded about ‘as light as lind’ – the language used was based on that of Mediaeval Mystery Plays (something between Chaucer and Shakespeare), and it was to the credit of the whole cast that it was easily understood.

The Shepherds were the light entertainment of the piece, played by Bob Wilson, Carl Todhunter and Mylo Chamberlin, who was a very self-assured young shepherd boy. Between them they managed to rouse the audience to sing along with their song, picking on a few good-natured audience members along the way. This motley trio beautifully played their greeting to Mary and her baby Jesus, their comic turn giving way to tenderness.

The Three Kings were majestically played by Laurence Leng, Bill Baldock and Alex Orchin, complete with hobby-style horses cantering around the church.

Alan Carter’s powerful portrayal of Herod was both cruel and psychotic, and when the severed heads of two of his victims were revealed the audience were left in no doubt to how evil he was. His welcome to The Kings as they passed through his land was menacing, as was his treatment of his herald Calcas, played by Edward Newey, who was a bundle of energy, mischievously mimicking Herod behind his back.

Herod was ably supported by his guards, played by Rupert Meredith-Jones and Kevin Kelly. When forced to do Herod’s bidding they displayed their dilemma – to kill innocent children or be killed themselves. The four women who portrayed the mothers whose children had been slain were powerfully played by Amy Kelly, Olivia Todhunter, Lucy Smith and Anne Woodhouse, their heartbreak palpable.

The cast included a variety of angels – Alex Mowforth sang beautifully to Mary and Anne Martin’s angel warned the Kings of Herod’s evil intent. Sue Welch and Vicky Rajkovic-Kimber were cheeky comedy angels.

The production was interspersed by the beautiful voices of choir, led by Jenny Billam, adding to the magic of the evening. The scene-shifters, door-openers, technical support and costumes all helped to make the evening very special, and it was a lovely start to the Christmas period.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page

3 Follow us on Twitter

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

Be part of it.