Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Pleeese Mrs Maclaren, Let Me Be The Virgin..."

Now Is The Season Of The Nativity Play and I am remembering...
Years ago, as a teacher in South London, I brushed Mary's hair till it gleamed like silk and no-one could possibly guess she'd had nits last week.
In Port Sunlight, I ironed Joseph's teatowel headgear till it stretched over the ironing board like immaculate perfection.
And at home, just to show real dedication, I scoffed a pound of Terry's All Gold in one delicious evening (watching Starsky And Hutch) so that next day, my very own Wise Man had his very own box as his present for the Babe.

The Christmas Nativity Play; it's the Show that sorts Asses from Angels, Shepherds from Sheep. It sorts Virgins ( in blue silk) from 3rd Innkeepers ( in grubby Tshirts) ), it sorts Angel Gabriel ( gossamer wings, Granny's antique camisole) from Narrator's Understudy ( mud-caked scarf from "lost property" )
It's "Life In a Nutshell", It's "The Starring Role", It's "You're The Donkey, Dear, So Better Luck Next Year", .... It sorts boys from girls, girls from boys and at six years old, in a village school in Cheshire, I wanted to be The Virgin.
I prayed ( "Pleeese, Mrs Maclaren, let me be The Virgin"). I learned my Tables, my Spellings, even my Manners, to be The Virgin and I sang "wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen" in sweetest voice, so that eventually I WAS chosen to be The Virgin. Jesus was just a scruffy toy panda from the Wendy House, Joseph had a permanently runny nose, and one of The Kings ( Caspar) wanted to keep his real name ( Norman Pearson) even when gowned-up on stage. But I was in Heaven!

Later, as a teacher, I seethed behind curtains, mopped up sick behind curtains, shouted:" You're all Stars! " behind curtains. I praised, cajolled, prompted, roared behind curtains. I pulled curtains at the right time and curtains at the wrong time. I puffed on a fag in a stockroom, gorged Cadbury's in a stockroom, swigged sherry from the staff room in a schooner in the stockroom. And all the time I hoped 28 children would remember 3 C's: cues, costumes and choruses.

As a parent, I gasped with pride; I saw golden haired sons sing on stage while my husband got tears in his eyes and my mother's mascara ran and my father's voice went croaky and I sat on the front row in dusty school halls glittering with tinsel ( the hall, not me) grinning like Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show.
And I smiled at dewy-eyed grandmas, agreed that Donna's a Star In The Making, Dean should be at Choir School, that "Nobody noticed the puddle Tracey left by the Manger" And I clapped till my hands ached and I sang "The First Noel" till certain poor shepherds weren't certain of anything any more..

AND THEN only last Saturday we visited The Playhouse Liverpool for Tim Firth's ( "Calendar Girls" "All Quiet On The Preston Front" "Neville's Island" etc ) marvellous " The Flint Street Nativity". It's a play for adults about children producing a Nativity; the children are played by adults. Firth catches (brilliantly) the whole "message" of the situation; he creates characters we recognise from childhood, situations we half remember, situations easily translated and understood as adult ones...just as the characters of the " children" could be our friends, neighbours, that man down the street. There's sadness and humour ( loads of it) and there's music, singing, laughter and possibly a tear or two..... and it's a fabulous evening out at the Liverpool Playhouse till the end of January.....


Anonymous clare said...

Think that Flinthouse Nativity's been on the TV - could be wrong - but think it was. I love Tim Firth's stuff. Also love this, Jan - it is so funny and so honest...especially the eating of the All Gold in one night. That is one truly committed teacher. I wish I could have helped you out tht night!

9:58 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Clare, thanks for commenting! Yes Flint St has been on TV.
The All Gold incident was a long time ago but it was my way of helping with that year's Nativity...me not being the committed kind of mother who whips up an angel suit out of a handful of tulle and a ball of cottonwool.
The schooner of sherry incident took place at a school called Sheringdale in Southfields in South London. The school was near Wimbledon LTC; each June we were actually given a day off to attend matches! This was in the days of Jimmy Connors Chris Evert and Nastase ( I thought HE was wonderful..)
Can you imagine that happening in today's educational climate??

4:55 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

and I sang "The First Noel" till certain poor shepherds weren't certain of anything any more..
Love that! :) Loved it all. Great sense of energy in your writing.

12:30 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Chief B. I appreciate your opinion, especially having read YOUR stuff. Glad to make contact.

11:55 am  
Anonymous marly said...

My daughter was Mary at an epiphany pageant-and-feast this year. Alas, she was Mary now that she did not care about being Mary--all those little girls of 5 and 6 longed to be her. And she gave Joseph a look of ferocious indignation that should have turned him to stone, and thumped the baby about in a frightful way.

5:15 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

YOur daughter sounds great! LOts of spirit, there!

9:27 pm  

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