Christmas in school starts at some point in October if you are lucky, September if less so. The Nativity or other productions can take weeks of preparation, with lovingly made costumes and seemingly tenuous links to the reality of the Christmas tale. I heard this week of a child dressed as a giraffe in one stable scene.
Our most memorable play was remembered for all the wrong reasons though. For reasons unknown half of the children had to stand in the space where the dining tables were normally kept, a space about 40 feet long and 9 feet high. In a 90 minute performance that space became a sauna; supervising staff wore vest tops and even shorts in there. In the year in question, the first performance passed without a hitch, but night two was a different proposition altogether.
The night began with instrumental recitals. One nine year old violinist finished her piece, put down her violin, turned white and vomited profusely and violently all over the stage, some ending up in the Head's trouser turn ups!
The rest of the children had a further twenty minute wait while everything was cleaned up, and unbelievably the girl wanted to continue with the play. Whatever she had contracted though was virulent, as the events of the next hour would attest to.
From my position I was aware of a hubbub at the side. Next a child was led out and a pot of 'magic body spillage crystals' was sent for. A second, then a third child soon followed.
Meanwhile the performance on stage continued, interrupted by retches, splats and splashes! Several of us went over to help out and the virus I swear was literally leaping from child to child. Children were being carried out, mops and buckets sent for and the unmistakable aroma of Dettol began to waft around the hall, barely masking the scent of, shall we say, a ripe Brie mixed with a strong Parmesan.
The time came for the class at the side to play their scene. One child came on, did his line, exited, threw up, and was replaced by another. Two of us were literally force feeding lines to children, checking their temperatures, then throwing them onto the stage. The eight children who should have played the whole scene never delivered all their lines. The class dance was not supposed to have children running down the steps or leaning off the stage into a bucket, but somehow they got to the end.
The audience barely reacted though, only realising at the end when all the children were on stage for their photographs, that there was a huge gap where their offspring should have been. The Head mentioned 'the unfortunate interruption' in his closing speech. One of the classes had a trip next day. Only six children turned up from that class, and barely a dozen from the other class.
What a performance!