Play time

17th November 2000 at 00:00
Gabrielle Jones reflects on angels from the realms of Reception and the trials and tribulations of being the real hero of the Christmas production

here's nothing which brings a tear to the eye and a catch to the throat half so much as little girls in angel wings and white socks, or a row of little boys dressed as chimney sweeps with two artfully placed black smudges on nose and cheek, singing "Silent Night" or "Let's Go Fly a Kite".

How sweet they are, how charming, how natural on stage - surely there is nothing so utterly moving as the school Christmas play?

Nothing, perhaps, apart from the backbreaking hours of work and total frustration which will have been put in by some madly determined teacher, despite the absolute unwillingness or lack of talent - often hard to distinguish, especially in Reception or Year 1 - of Johnny or Despina or Mehmed or Jenna to actually stand where they are meant to, sing when the others sing and please, even if you must pick your nose, at least don't scratch your bum at the same time.

Timetabling the rehearsals is a nightmare even before half-term. Of course it is selfish and elitist to want the only two girls who can sing to be angels. Even so, why do they have to have their violin lessons at lunch-time? And why can't the literacy co-ordinator skip that course and help the Year 4 boys learn their comedy routine - but who's laughing?

What do you mean, there's a basketball club starting on Wednesday afternoons? That means not a single Year 5 will choose drama. Or only the clumsy ones. Yes, OK, we could get Tom, bless him, to play Dick Van Dyke, but he doesn't just fall over, he also cries, and don't you think it will ruin the feeling of the scene?

OK, OK, yes Monday mornings before school is fine - I don't think. Yes, all the special needs children will have good parts. Yes, the gifted and talented children will have good parts. Yes, the ordinary children will not be left out. OK, forget it, we'll do it all by chorus, no good parts, all right?

Sulking, who's sulking? It's just that if some of the rest of you cared to lend a hand I wouldn't feel quite so lonely. Actually, I've got a family, too. Just thought I'd mention it and yes, my husband probably will build the scenery, thanks. I wouldn't say he lovs it exactly, no, but he wouldn't mind some help, if you're offering. Useless at DIY? Why am I not surprised?

Ask the parents? What a good idea. Oh, I see, you want to help but you can't sew, can't make anything, don't know anything about drama and are useless with children - I think I could have guessed that bit. Splendid. Why don't you, um, er, do the programme?

Sit down, do be quiet. Listen, class 4B make a line over there, class 4A over there. Now walk slowly, SLOWLY I said, towards the middle, stop, turn and walk back now along the outside of the stage. What's wrong, Pritesh? Go and see Mrs Jones in the Welfare Room.

Where is Sing Loo? Oh no, what's wrong with her? Be quiet I said. OK, see me afterwards, we'll learn the words together - well, if you can't come after school today I'll give the part to someone else. Yes it could be you, Shania. Why not? I've done everything else to wreck - er - restore the play to its full glory.

Gosh is that you, Mr Smith? Are you really coming to help with the music? No of course I'm not crying, it's just the relief. I was going to use a tape, but you think we can rehearse the choir. OK, over to you.

Is Mr Smith one of the angels sent by God? No, no, I mustn't let it get to me. Oh, Mrs Iqbal, you can sew 30 costumes by next Friday? Is that OK? We'll give you the materials and the thread - your brother will donate the thread, how very kind, and your friend has the pattern for angels' wings? Hallelujah!

Are you sure we've got enough snow? Just run out and get another carton. Have you seen Amina? I sent her to get the snow and now we haven't got anyone to put on the smudges. Who's doing the prompting? Of course we need prompts, this isn't the Old Vic you know. No, I didn't say Old Nick. Not funny.

The hall is so full! Yes, they seem to be liking it. Oh no, all of Year 3 are scratching their bums. It must be catching, hope it's not fleas or some health and safety issue. Oh Amina, thank goodness you're back. No you haven't missed Soraya, she's on next. Thanks for the snow.

Yes, aren't they adorable? No, it's all in a term's work, no trouble. I expect you don't want to buy a few spare cans of snow? Lovely for the Christmas tree.

Oh well, there will always be next year. I suppose.

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