Thursday, 3 December 2015

TBT - The Flint Street Nativity (1999)

On Monday I admitted to acting quite like a child. It's true. I still love all of the TV shows I grew up watching and the music I listened to as a teenager. I'm not sure that I'll ever reach a point where I don't need my parents to help me deal with banking and medical issues. A co-worker recently took the piss out of me when I admitted to owning my very own set of replica Pokemon gym badges. Apparently it makes me a little weird, childish and ridiculous. If you ask me it makes me super cool and someone to be jealous of. However, I can't deny that I'm hardly the most comfortable of adults and, outside of my job, will do anything I can to pretend I'm still a kid. Who needs that shit? I'll just stuff my fingers in my ears and pretend it's not happening.

Let's be honest though, it's fun pretending to be a kid. There's a reason we all get nostalgic about our preteen days. We weren't jaded by the world and we hardly had anything to worry about. Revisiting those days would be glorious. It's also wonderful seeing other people acting like children. What's better than seeing someone who is normally so professional and uptight playing with a child's toy?

The Flint Street Nativity was first broadcast on ITV way back in 1999 and since that day I've fucking loved it. The film features a cast of big-ish names in British comedy playing school children in the midst of putting on their Christmas nativity. Actors like Stephen Tompkinson, Mark Addy, Jane Horrocks and John Thomson revert to their youth in an oversized set before revamping themselves as their child's parent. These brief end scenes give us a real glimpse into who the children are and how similar they are to their family.

The scenes of the actual nativity are fairly standard stuff and the script is littered with brief interludes of Christmas carols to get you into the spirit.  It's the moments behind the scenes that really lift the whole thing though. Watching the children prepare to take to the stage and interact with each other is brilliant. We experience the usual stresses associated with any children's performance and you'll find it easily summons up all the memories you had as a child. It's all here: the jealousy at not being cast as Mary; the power play between groups of friends; daring your classmates to break the rules; wanting to show off to Mum and Dad; and the desperate need to try to fit in with everyone else.

Watching it now the pop-culture and sports references are fairly dated but it still stands up. There are some hilarious moments as well as a great insight into the world of school plays. Tim Firth used stories told to him by friends and family who work in schools to create the narrative. It has obviously been exaggerated for comic effect but it still feels so fucking familiar. It's fantastic. The script is constantly funny and the performances are great. Even though you know the tricks that have been employed to make these well-known faces seem smaller, you can easily find yourself believing that they are children making their stage debut.

This came out on television so fucking long ago that we had it recorded on VHS. That video had a lot of wear and tear. My sisters and I would watch it on repeat and then rewind our favourite bits until the ribbon was worn down. This didn't make my list of essential Christmas viewing because I wasn't sure it would really count. It's a very niche selection that many people won't have heard of. Whilst it found more fame as a stage production, I don't think this version has ever been repeated on TV and can't believe it's been seen outside of the UK. However, I love watching this every year. It features a whole host of comic talent and manages to avoid the awful child actor issue that many school-based Christmas films fall fowl of.

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