A Children’s Guide to the Birth of Christ

AMI JONES is brought right back to her school days. And no, not in a bad way.

A Children's Guide to the Birth of Christ Ami Jones Christmas Corpus Playroom Disney gaddafi Jack Oxley Jeff Carpenter jennie king Joey Akubeze nativity panto pantomime Saul Boyer

Corpus Playroom, 22nd-26th November, 9.30pm, £5-6

Directed by Jeff Carpenter

[rating: 4/5]

I happen to have a little sister whom I love very much. Her name is Hannah. I’ve been homesick something awful this dark, dark penultimate week of term, and I don’t know how, but Jeff Carpenter’s latest offering has somehow made it all much better.

Actually, I do know how. Twice a year, Hannah puts on a production with her youth theatre group. Every performance, without fail, seems to get more and more abysmal and tacky, even though I tell myself the kids must be getting older. And I absolutely adore every single one.

I was greeted to the Playroom – emblazoned with levels of tinsel and fairy-lights which would put my hometown to shame – by the headmaster, Mr. Harris, rattling a cup at me and demanding donations for the cricket bat fund. It’s a credit to Jack Oxley’s convincing earnestness that I was immediately overwhelmed by a confusing fear of authority which I thought I’d left behind in my school days and immediately emptied my coin pouch. Sneaky.

I never thought I’d miss school assemblies (in fact, I skipped school on the days of my last few. BADASS.) but I was immersed in a combination of sickening familiarity and delighted nostalgia as Oxley and Jeff Carpenter himself (nodding away as the former music teacher brought out of retirement) somehow transformed the Corpus Playroom into the school gymnasium of Chinese International School.

This “bastard child of a musical” took kitsch and parody to a whole new level. Eat your heart out, Jafar-of-Disney’s-Aladdin – Saul Boyer’s evil-King-Herod is here. Never has a villain demanded to know who stole his last Rollo so funny-yet-scarily. And he can sing. And he has sexy Gaddafi-style Amazonian Guard ladies.

I don’t know if I can convey just how badly I want to give away some spoilers of the insanity that occurred last night. I will say that the inexplicable madness of a soul-singing donkey dictator (Joey Akubeze) occurred, and that I loved the shepherds (Jennie King and Julia Shelley).

And yes, there were sound problems, and the singing ability across the board was more uneven than Hannah’s newly-pubertified skin. But who cares?

Go, just go. Preferably with a drink in hand. But I’m not going to say oh-it’s-so-bad-it’s-good-especially-when-wankered. The Footlights Panto this week will have a sickeningly large budget and is inviting national press. Which is great, go see that. But please, please also see this. I can’t remember the last time someone in Cambridge went “fuck it, it’s fun”, and then committed with such heart and enthusiasm. Much less a whole group of them.