CASTING the end-of-term nativity play is that bit harder when all your pupils are boys.
However, teachers at Mowden preparatory school in Brighton had surprisingly few problems getting volunteers for the role of Mary.
The biggest hurdle was persuading the sister of one of the five-year-old cast members to part with a doll to play the role of the newborn.
So when the Son of God mysteriously vanished two days before the performance, few believed anyone could have been mean-spirited enough to kidnap him. But the truth that emerged was no easier to bear - Baby Jesus and his manger had accidentally been sold in the school jumble sale. However, like all true professionals, staff and pupils knew the show must go o.
Urgent notices went up in the corridors of the pound;2,460-a-term school pleading for the return of Baby Jesus and appealing for a suitable understudy.
At the 11th hour, with still no sign of the missing baby, the sister of another pupil volunteered a replacement and the show passed off without a hitch.
Headteacher's wife Mrs Judy Snell said: "The play was a great success and Mary coped very well with acquiring a new baby at such short notice. But neither the person responsible for selling the original Jesus, nor the person who bought him have dared identify themselves. We just hope their conscience will get the better of them and we'll be able to return him to his rightful owner."