Picture credit: Layton Thompson

Nativity Cycle comes to Bristol

This was the Christmas story told as never before, as the world’s first Nativity Cycle rolled into Bristol yesterday (Monday 22 December).

Hundreds of people gathered at Creative Common, near Bristol’s Temple Meads Station, to witness Herod arrive by ferry (cue boos and hisses), and watch the story unfold. Mary entered the open-air stage to Madonna’s Like a Virgin, and announced, “It ain’t your usual pregnancy.” The Angel Gabriel pedalled in on an oversized bike which blared out Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.

Jesus’ birth, in a shuddering pop-up tent, was greeted rather beautifully as members of a local choir scattered through the audience joined the cast in singing a slow, gentle chant. The 40-minute performance concluded with a dramatic escape by boat for Mary, Joseph and Jesus – and the line: “Love is the thing that binds us all together. When that baby was born, it changed the world forever.”

Kierstan Lowe, 40, who watched the play with her two daughters, said afterwards, “It’s lovely to be in touch with why we celebrate Christmas. I say that as an atheist: I want my children to know there’s an important story here, a message that’s important whether you have a faith or not. That’s why I came.” Six-year-old Àine added, “It was fantastic!”

Bristol-based lecturer Amy Creech, watching with eight-year-old Rosa, said, “It was fun and warm and inclusive. I’m not religious, but I thought it would be an interesting interpretation of the story, and it was.”

Chris Pirie, 52, a puppeteer from Bristol, added, “I loved the fact that it was for everyone. It’s always good to hear a fresh take on a familiar story.”

The drama, commissioned by Bible Society, was performed by Bristol theatre group Desperate Men. The 12-strong cast had spent the day pedalling round the city re-enacting elements of the nativity story for curious shoppers and passers-by. They stopped at hotels looking for a place to stay, entered a travel agent to book flights to Bethlehem, and entertained diners at a restaurant called The Stable.

Outside Roll for Soul café in Quay Street, Joseph shouted “PUSH!” to a panting Mary as Wise Man Number Three burst through the door with napkins and a small bowl of water. Dabbing at Mary’s face frantically, the pair turned to the bemused onlookers and asked, ‘Is anyone a midwife?’

Ben Whitnall, Bible Society’s Campaigns Manager, said, “People were either totally baffled – or they were really positive and engaged. Children were tugging on their mums sleeve to point out the characters, and several people even offered Mary a place to stay.”

He added, “Nine out of 10 people never engage with the Bible. I hope the Cycle Nativity has helped people see the Bible in a fresh way, and they’ll be inspired to look at it for themselves. I love Bible stories and I want people who don’t know them to love them too. I hope people discover the Bible is not full of ‘thou shalt nots’ but is a story about real people – and love.”

Video Camerman: Tim Hughes, Reel TV Ltd


The Nativity Cycle: Daytime walkabout


The Nativity Cycle: Evening finale


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