Angela Black’s Nativity brought to life at Wivelsfield Parish Church

REVIEW BY Maggie Carter

The Nativity with Chance Stoner (Mary) and Alex Orchin (Joseph) by Joe Mott.

The seventh outing of Angela Black’s Nativity was brought to life by director Paul Welch at Wivelsfield Parish Church to sell out audiences.

The combined production of the Church and Wivelsfield Little Theatre ran for five nights and provided a welcome start to the Christmas season. The language used was based on that of medieval mystery plays described as post Chaucer and pre-Shakespeare. To learn and understand this language is not an easy thing and it was to the credit of the whole cast that it came over so well.

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Like all previous incarnations over the years since 2003 it was in turn moving, amusing, scary and uplifting. Set in the beautiful candle lit church surroundings Mark Orchin’s minstrel entertained the audience as they supped mulled wine which contributed to the atmosphere and providing a fitting start to the evening.

Paul Welch’s welcome to the evening as Isaiah gave way to the actors who played their parts perfectly. Chance Stoner’s moving portrayal as Mary had a wide range of emotions; in awe when visited by Gabriel (played by a kindly David Tettersell), frightened by the wrath of Joseph when he thought that he had been wronged by her, brave when she had the baby calming a panicking Joseph and tender as the young mother.

Alex Orchin’s Joseph came over as a genuine father like figure to his young wife protecting her and her precious new born and showing the emotion and joy as he bounded about “as light as Lind”. The shepherds were the light entertainment of the piece played by Bob Wilson Carl Todhunter and Thomas Drage who was a very impressive and 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 John MacLeod, Bill Baldock and Tam Large, complete with hobby style horses cantering around the church in their search for the stable, at which they could present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus in a show of awe and reverence. 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 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 Toby Perkins who was a bundle of energy, mischievously mimicking him behind his back.

Herod was ably supported by his goose-stepping guards played by Rupert Meredith Jones and Kevin Kelly. When forced to do their king’s bidding they displayed their dilemma to kill young innocent children or be killed themselves. The four women who portrayed the mothers whose children had been slain were beautifully played by Amy Kelly, Lucy Dutt, Hannah Drage and Eloisa Fry, their heartbreak palpable.

The cast included a variety of Angels -Francesca Wilson's Angel sang beautifully to Mary after the birth and Judy Stoner’s Angel warned the Kings of Herod’s evil intent. Vicky Rajkovic-Kimber and Jane Sayers were the cheeky comedy Angels who appeared to and then chased the shepherds.

The production was interspersed by the melodic voices of the choir led by Jenny Billam adding to the magic of the evening. The scene shifters, door openers, technical support and costumes all helped make the evening very special.

Maggie Carter