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posted/updated: 04 Dec 2015 - edit review / upload photos
The Nativity
Directed by Richard Brown. A selection from the Medieval Mystery Plays as adapted for The National Theatre by Tony Harrison
society/company: Shakespeare at The George (directory)
performance date: 02 Dec 2015
venue: St Mary’s Church, High Street, Huntingdon. PE29 3RR
reviewer/s: Sandra Samwell (NODA review)

THe Nativity

Medieval Mystery plays in Huntingdon

A dark December evening was enlivened and enlightened by a brilliant rendition of ‘The Nativity’ by SatG in the PARLOUR. In the gloriously appropriate setting of St Mary’s Church, an inspirational, inventive and innovative director, Richard Brown, brought to life a selection of Tony Harrison’s adaptations of the Medieval Mystery Plays.

From the fall of Lucifer to the Massacre of the Innocents with a moving yet humorous retelling of the birth stories from Matthew and Luke in between, an underscore of delightful music from Roy Bellass and his band and an overlay of excellent choreography by Lynne Livingstone which contributed effectively to mood and meaning as well as exceptionally good costumes, props, sound, set design and construction with especially ingenious lighting design by Richard Peroni and Max Richardson, this production never failed to tell the story well or remind us of our links with past communities down the years.

A good decision to play it without an interval meant that we were swept away, almost literally in the hilarious Noah sequence, into both a world of the middle ages and a much, much earlier time when oral traditions and histories merged. Neat multi-purpose devices such as the Christmas lights around the pillar, a long red ribbon and beautiful globes on sticks made for seamless transitions and a clever context in which to engage a rapt audience.

The cast was exceptional. It is invidious to single out performances in what is so clearly a company show but mention must be made of Simon Maylor’s terrifically scary and funny Herod the Great skipping the megalomaniac-fantastic like a Rocky figure in a string vest and silk boxing robe ,tearing up telephone directories and dealing death and laughs with joyous dexterity. Les Roberts proved to be an hysterically humorous Noah with Collette Parker displaying equally fine panto timing as Mrs Noah whilst some profound dramatic acting was called into play by Lucas Elkin and Charlotte Maylor as Adam and Eve, Steph Hamer and Richard Brown as Mak’s wife and Mak (amongst other parts) and Louise West and Bob Pugh as Mary and Joseph.

Adding immeasurably to the narrative and laughs were some wonderful shepherds, angels, kings and sheep more ‘Shaun’ than ‘shorn.’ The cast members emphasised their versatility with tuneful singing of merry and more doleful songs that brought both an ironic commentary and a meeting of medieval and contemporary into play. The quality of dance, both balletic and bawdy, by Alice Maylor and the whole company was of a very high standard.

I have absolutely no criticisms, constructive or otherwise, as I was thoroughly entertained by this well- judged interpretation of a great theatrical tradition. Bravo to all concerned!

This was another notable departure for SatG well worth taking and worth repeating in the future. In the plethora of local pantos and Christmas musicals, there is definitely room at the inn for an Advent treat such as this.

Sandra Samwell


District 1


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