A little donkey led the people of Wokingham from Market Place on a journey to the first Christmas, as part of a spectacular performance in 2014’s Living Advent Calendar.
Organised by Bottle Top Theatre Community, the Wokingham Live Nativity on Sunday, December 21 brought more than 600 people together for an open-air recreation of the birth of Jesus. The 30-minute fast-moving musical play featured a large cast of local people, and cumulated in a moving singalong to Away In A Manger.
Before the performance, which was held in Howard Palmer Gardens, people could take part in activities in Market Place.
There were crafty things for children to make, a chance to play pin the tail on the donkey and a be pictured in a series of tableaus to become part of the Christmas story.
Some Christmassy songs were performed as people enjoyed free mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Star attraction was a donkey from the Toad Hall Nursery. And it was the donkey that headed up a procession from Market Place to Howard Palmer Gardens. Also taking part was the Town Mayor of Wokingham, Cllr Martin Bishop who held a star pointing the way for people to go.
Cllr Bishop took to the stage to welcome people when they arrived in Howard Palmer Gardens, watched by Borough Mayor, Cllr UllaKarin Clark.
Bottle Top Theatre Community’s creative director, Hayley Blakeman, had a sense of privilege to be part of the play.
She said: “I’ve been producing the show, [handling] all the logistics and I wrote the script as well. I’m lucky to be part of an amazing team that has brought it to life.”
And director Anna Adams also praised the team responsible for the play.
Speaking immediately after the performance ended she said: “The lighting people have been fab, the staging people have been great. Really the praise goes to the cast who have worked really, really hard. They’ve done a wonderful job in sharing the Christmas story.”
Hayley said that the The Live Nativity has brought lots of people together. She said: “My proudest thing is how many different churches we have represented. Lots on stage, or making props and costumes, we have seven or eight churches from the local community all represented. That’s what we at Bottle Top want to do we want to bring people together – and people of all ages as well.
“Also [we want to bring together] people [from] beyond the churches as well. We’ve had people from the Salvation Army, some of the vulnerable and homeless people have been helping us. We do a drop-in there.”
The pair were also delighted with the impressive turnout, with all ages coming along to watch.
Anna said: “It’s just great to see families come out and see this amazing story. I’m really, really pleased that so many people have come out. I’m really pleased about that the really young kids seemed to be really engaged with it from the minute it started.”
The play closed with all the cast coming on stage to sing Away In A Manger. Anna explained that the famous carol was chosen because “it’s just such a poignant Christmas song – it’s the first one you learn as a child. Everyone knows it and everyone is familiar with it.”
The Live Nativity was part of the More Arts Living Advent Calendar, which ran from December 1 to Christmas Eve. Each evening, a different live performance would take place at a different Wokingham venue.
Money raised from donations given at each performance will be shared between four charities: 2499 (Wokingham) Squadron Air Training Corps, Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice, Building for the Future (Wokingham) and High Close School (Barnado’s).
For more on the Living Advent Calendar click here
For more on Bottle Top Theatre Community click here