This week, many parents will be attending the annual Christmas Play at their child’s school. I would like to share some of our memories of Christmas Plays with you. I am sure the plays haven’t changed very much since we used to go to them some 25 years ago.
As you know, when Russell was young we lived in a small village in South Wales; his playgroup always put on a Christmas Extravaganza every year for parents and friends. The play was organised by Diana, the playgroup leader and her team of helpers. Many of us mums would also join the team to help make costumes and provide refreshments. These playgroup shows were always so well organised and also so much fun. I remember one year the play had a woodland theme; all the children dressed up as animals and sang Christmas songs. That involved many hours of making and painting an animal mask for each child to wear on stage. There is still a badger head in the depths of our loft, all the paint has now cracked and fallen off, but it still holds memories of Russell’s first venture into acting. (Although I do remember a mega protest at having to sit on the stage with everyone watching him!)
When Russell started primary school, the play was more traditional with shepherds, angels and Mary and Joseph. This year Russell had a speaking part! He was one of the shepherds and had to point at the “sky” and say “Oh, Look! There’s an angel!” After much practicing to remember the words and also when he had to say them, he delivered his lines with aplomb! His costume was home made (of course) and as a shepherd he had to wear a tea towel on his head (the school sent home instructions on how to make this, I’m not quite sure why as it didn’t seem too difficult, but maybe I just have a talent for putting tea towels on heads!)
When we arrived at the school hall to watch the play, we were initially disappointed that all the teachers were sat in the front row and the parents had to sit behind. The reason became apparent as the play progressed. All the youngest children were sat on the edge of the stage; they were dressed as teddy bears in what we would now call onesies (they weren’t invented in 1989). As the play progressed, the temperature began to rise and one by one the littlest children, in their warm furry costumes fell asleep, and then fell off the stage. The teachers were there to catch them as they fell off!
The following year Russell was at Little Kingshill School, this time he was an assistant to one of the three kings (this must be a promotion from a shepherd). Again, all the costumes were home made by us parents. This was the year I made what seemed like hundreds of angel costumes out of old sheets and tinsel. As the children got older, they were given more supporting roles (Little Kingshill always gave the youngest children in the main parts) so the next few years were spent dressing up as holly leaves and berries.
We still have many of the costumes for these and other school productions in our loft – you never know when they will come in useful, (more about dressing up in a future blog).
So, this year if you are lucky enough to be going to a school Christmas play, spare a thought for all the hours of planning and costume-making that goes into your child’s 30 seconds of fame on that school stage, and enjoy the production. It won’t be long before your child is far too grown-up to be reminded of fluffing their lines or falling off the stage.