Each Christmas in West Tanfield, North Yorkshire, people come together to put on their own Christmas play.
They prefer classic stories. They’ve done the Nativity, St Nicholas, and Babushka. They’ve gambled with outdoor productions, but when the weather proved – well, seasonal – they retired to the sanctuary of their ancient stone church.
They love local talent – one year, they got the local police to act the role of Herod’s guard. Roles, however, are not typecast. When they decided to tell the Russian folktale of Babushka, a grandmother who distributes toys to children, they chose a young woman to play the part. Rachel Elliott, who took the role, says, “There was a conversation in the pub. It was all very secret, we weren’t told what role we’d do – we were just recruited to be in the play. We discovered our roles at the first rehearsal.”
Babushka was a woman who followed the Three Wise Men, in search of the Infant Jesus. But she was delayed by household cares, and lost her way.
Like all good village productions, the story was adapted to the locality, with Babushka’s journey passing through Nosterfield and Ripon Market place.
Villagers give a lot of time and effort to entertain their neighbours. It’s far more than learning lines and appearing on stage. There are costumes, props, lighting, music, refreshments. There’s a job for as many hands as want to join.
The audience is included too, singing the traditional carols that contribute to the story.
The result is a Christmas show that brings people together, providing the fellowship and good cheer that lies at the heart of Christmas.
Read more in Dalesman Magazine, December 2017 issue