Review: A Children’s Guide to the Birth of Christ

Rhian Lewis 5 December 2011

A Children’s Guide to the Birth of Christ

Corpus Playroom Lateshow – 9.30pm, until Sat 26th Nov


A Children’s Guide to the Birth of Christ is like the gorgonzola of musicals. It was possibly the cheesiest thing I have ever seen on a Cambridge stage. Luckily I love cheese, and luckier still, the audience did too. From start to finish, the packed Corpus Playroom was filled with laughter and cheering for a fantastic cast. This was exactly the right start to Christmas celebrations in the last week of term.

It began with form teacher Mr Harris, played hilariously convincingly by Jack Oxley, selling programmes outside. He introduced the school nativity play, and the piano teacher (also the writer and director Jeff Carpenter) who played live keyboard throughout. This was definitely going to be the school nativity play that we all know and love. You know the one you probably starred in – in Year Four, as a sheep or something.

I can criticise very little. What I will say, though, is that the chorus started off acting like the children of ‘Form 5′, as you would probably expect. But that didn’t continue: more direction was needed to define how they fitted in to the school nativity play frame-work as narrators. I just wasn’t sure if they were the pupils or not. This might have been helped if they had not been seated on the floor for most of the play. To be fair, staging is notoriously difficult in the un-tiered, L-shaped Corpus Playroom, and in general, they managed very well. However, I could see that the chorus were reacting to everything going on onstage, and if they had been on chairs the audience at the back could appreciated it, too.

Ultimately though, these are minor criticisms. The production was full of energy. Particular highlights were Simon Perfect, James Swanton and Jamie Hansen’s Magi (or rather, three hilarious German scientists); the stoner Shepherds (Jennie King and Julia Shelley); and Herod (Saul Boyer), a perfect pantomime villain. Did I mention that this nativity play was tongue-in-cheek?

All in all, this might not be the best musical for the easily-offended. However, if you like ‘Life of Brian’-esque humour, and the type of songs that no one admits singing along to in Cindies, this is definitely the play to get you in a Christmas mood.

Rhian Lewis