Nativity performance is a sad casualty of latest Covid measures

Joseph Bulmer

It is with regret that I must report the cancellation of this year's Nativity performance in church.

You may remember that I wrote a column a few weeks ago about the play I put together during Lockdown 1: The Original Lockdown.

I was delighted that my younger son's primary school had graciously (and, some would say, bravely) agreed to utilise my work for this year's production, and I was full of trepidation and excitement about the performance.

I had organised a collaboration with my elder children's school, liaising with the Head of Music who had generously agreed to supply a kind student to assist with the instrumental contribution, and I had secured staging approval and a rehearsal slot in the church. The scene was (almost) set.

Sadly, when the new Omnicrom variant reared its ugly crown-bearing head, and recommendations began to circulate with regard to public gatherings (ie exercise prudence and avoid them, where possible), the school concluded that in the best interests of children, staff and parents, it was necessary to cancel the live showing.

This was disappointing news for all concerned, but, in the still-churning wake of another significant negative announcement for the family, I was relatively sanguine about the decision.

My younger daughter, who had been rehearsing exhaustively for the lead role in her secondary school's Christmas panto since early autumn, had heard the week prior to the announcement about the Nativity that her school had made the difficult choice to abandon the project, on advice of the local Directors of Public Health.

This was a huge blow: she had aspired to be awarded the accolade of principal character for some years, and we were all over the moon when she successfully auditioned for the lead. Weeks of after-school and occasional Saturday rehearsals ensued, and I listened with rapt enthusiasm to her back-stage gossip about costumes, script and music.

She would feed us nuggets of insight about her fellow cast members - a charming crew - and was revelling in the experience of working alongside like-minded peers and skilful teachers to create a wonderful show.

We had purchased a good number of tickets for the two-night performance run, inviting family members from near and far to join us. There was a palpable hubbub of anticipation as opening night drew tantalisingly close; plans were formulated regarding who would attend which evening's show, and speculation abounded over how to secure prime seating.

And then came the news that the show could not, after all, go on. In vain did we remonstrate with the headteacher - at the behest of our incandescent elder daughter, who was outraged on her sister's behalf - suggesting COVID-safe strategies, and imploring them to reconsider; his response was courteous but his position remained unswayed.

It seemed that all the paths had been explored and there was no hope of a change of heart. Our daughter was, briefly, inconsolable. She is in her final year of formal schooling, and the panto was her last opportunity to play the lead in a school production, the existence of which have provided a staple contribution to the enjoyment and success of her academic journey.

Her family was similarly upset, but there was nothing to be done. Thus, it seemed only right that the Nativity should succumb to the same fate - an act of sorrowful solidarity.

The email that I received with the sad news about the play was charming in its content, full of regret about the situation and assurances that the play could be resurrected again next year.

I spoke in person to the teacher at the helm of the production, who described how much preparation the children had undertaken, devoting time to learning lines and working on the score to the extent that they could be heard singing the opening song as they made their way to the lunch hall - a gratifying revelation that was quite literally music to my ears.

It is hoped that some element of the production can be included in a recording of a Christmas extravaganza that will be made available to school parents online but, for 2021 at least, the play in its entirety has been shelved. In the spirit of festive acceptance: Ho ho hum.