DVD Review: The Nativity (Young Vic)

“I am the Angel Gabriel
‘And I’m the Queen of Sheba’”

I was pointed towards this DVD of the Young Vic’s version of The Nativity after failing to be impressed by either film version I watched a couple of weeks ago, and even if something is usually lost in the filming of theatrical work, David Farr’s adaptation of the story is proof positive of how effective the medium of theatre can really be. Designed for young people (but equally the young at heart), this physical, in-the-round production had me captivated and much more moved than either of the overly-literal films.

For this telling is conscious of the sense of wondrous magic that ought to accompany the Nativity story, the others failed in trying to make a credible world in which these events might have unfolded, this succeeds in recognising the power of just believing, no matter what it is one believes. So a beggarman turns into a glorious Angel Gabriel, the donkey carrying Joseph and Mary tells them a tale of wise King Solomon, the souls of the children massacred under Herod’s orders are given a beautifully bright future.

The story as we know it has various additions: lessons are learned on the arduous journey through the telling of several biblical tales alongside Solomon, the use of puppets well-judged here (and coming from me that means something!); and in the show’s best section for me, a mad shepherd called Ben is given the most gorgeous moment of gracious redemption once the baby has been born, preaching the value of humanity that crosses all religions. And in the way of all good children’s shows, it doesn’t sugar-coat too much, there’s sadness as well as joy, darkness and light.

Toby Jones’ everyman Joseph and Nine Sosanya’s elegant Mary lead the cast well as a flexible ensemble (including Kate Fleetwood) evoke a wide range of characters in playful, powerful style. Worth tracking down if you can. 

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