REV JONATHAN JEFFERY: Three real camels will be in the procession

Some of the cast preparing for the Leigh Park and Warren Park community nativity play. They are, from back left, Alli Henry, Sandra Smith, the Rev Jonathan Jeffery and Louise Elkington. Front, April Elkington and Francis Vassallo

Some of the cast preparing for the Leigh Park and Warren Park community nativity play. They are, from back left, Alli Henry, Sandra Smith, the Rev Jonathan Jeffery and Louise Elkington. Front, April Elkington and Francis Vassallo

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THE season of Advent counts down to Christmas, and often involves measuring our progress in terms of choosing and wrapping presents, putting up decorations and buying the turkey.

For the church, it means getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

The message of Advent is ‘It’s coming!’, ‘Get ready’, ‘Change and prepare!’ and it encourages us all to get our lives in order ahead of Christmas celebrations.

This Advent, my preparations have been very different.

I’m playing the part of one of the storytellers in the Leigh Park and Warren Park community nativity play this weekend.

My preparations have involved lots of rehearsals of a fully-scripted and lavishly produced production. I’ve been to technical rehearsals, had my costume fitted, helped with publicity and ticket selling and – above all – struggled to learn my lines.

As a storyteller, my role is to interact both with other actors and the audience.

I have to introduce and react to the various scenes and encourage the audience to engage with the story as it unfolds.

Of course, we have Mary and Joseph, but we also have their best friends Jacob and Miriam. We also have King Herod with Marcus his Roman advisor: we have angels, mysterious Magi – with a full entourage, the innkeeper and his wife, and some troublesome shepherds.

Knowing the nativity story sometimes makes it harder to act my part. I often tell too much of the story too soon.

It’s also vital to remember my cues and directions, and to make sure I’m delivering the right lines for them to respond to. I have to pay attention and listen well.

It is going to be a fabulous production with pretty much all the tickets sold. There are donkeys and other animals from the stable, plus three live camels processing through Warren Park!

For my part then, I am keen to prepare well and so give of my best – those still sound like good Advent themes to me.

So despite the theatrical warnings never to work with children or animals, I hope and pray that it will be ‘all right on the night’.

n Leigh Park and Warren Park community nativity play, St Clare’s Church, Warren Park.

Performances are Saturday December 3, at 6pm, and Sunday, December, 4 at 2pm.

Camels and petting stable in Strouden Court car park, St Clare’s Avenue, from 1pm on Sunday. Camel procession along St Clare’s Avenue from 1.15pm. The road will be closed to traffic.

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