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Aldermaston - The York Nativity Play

11th to 14th December 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Aldermaston's treasure

The York Nativity Play, at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Aldermaston, from Thursday, December 11 to Sunday, December 14

As the music from the Wessex Society of Recorder Players faded away, we became aware of another instrument playing gently in the lovely 12th-century church. Gradually, the expectant chatter died down to leave us listening to the haunting notes of the psaltery and we were now ready for the story to be told.

Here was expert use of lighting, simple yet effective staging and ingenious use of the available space to provide the setting for the actors who took us through the familiar story creating renewed wonder and understanding.

Dressed in magnificent and colourful costumes, which it is hard to believe that some were originally made in 1957, the tale was related in words and pictures to please the ear and the eye.

Although there were many carefully directed tableaux, I particularly appreciated the final setting where we were left with that memorable image of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus alone in the stable.

The pace varied to meet the situation, from the energetic shepherds, the sedate movements of the priest and his acolytes and the majesty of the three kings who had indeed seemingly travelled from afar.

The choir were hidden in the bell tower and from the movement I observed in the audience it would appear that they would have appreciated seeing this 'heavenly choir' who made such a valuable contribution to the atmosphere.

This play has now been performed in unbroken sequence for 47 years and generations of families have been involved in various capacities from the early days.

It was good to see something that originated in medieval days not only being so well presented and received today but also set to be a tradition for many future generations.

Directed by Pat Eastop with musical director Peter Denny, the play provided a fitting start to the annual Christmas celebrations.

The audience maintained a respectful silence although, when the kings presented their gifts and the box of gold was lifted up, a little voice was heard to say: "Look! Treasure!"

I couldn't agree more, this was certainly an evening I will treasure.