Mundesley prepares for annual ‘live’ nativity

The stage has been set, props painted, beards applied and baby swaddled as Mundesley prepares to put on its annual Christmas pageant.

The one-hour show, which tells the traditional nativity story - complete with Roman soldiers - will wind its way through the village with actors accompanied by a four-legged cast to add to its authentic feel.

But while Mary will travel traditionally on a donkey, and the shepherds will lead a live flock of sheep, the three wise men will arrive at the manger on some more original steeds. A trio of llamas will carry the kings as they deliver their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

Jo Berry, director, said: 'We have got real sheep, a real donkey but we haven't got the wise men on horseback - they're on llamas. The lady who lent us horses last year has moved out of the village and trying to get horses is a nightmare.

'Next year it might be hobby horses.'

Its cast - who had a dress rehearsal this afternoon - features a host of homegrown talent including Norwich actress Rebecca Wass, who is putting a painful chronic illness to one side to play the Virgin Mary. The 31-year-old suffers from fibromyalgia but will be fulfilling a childhood ambition to perform in the starring role.

The pageant is now in its third year after being re-introduced to Mundesley's annual calendar and attracts hundreds of visitors into the village on Christmas Eve.

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It sets off from the bowls club car park at 6.15pm on Saturday and will progress through the streets - stopping at the village Chinese takeaway for the 'no room' at the inn scene - before finishing up at the stable in the parish church car park.

Carols will be sung along the way and guests are invited into the church at the end of the performance for a warming glass of mulled wine.

Mrs Berry said she was nervous ahead of the performance but was sure everything would run smoothly come show time.

She added: 'You don't know what the weather's going to be like and it's the first time we've tried the sound system so I'm a little bit apprehensive but I'm sure it will be alright on the night, in best theatre tradition.

'The idea is to remind people of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. And my father always said to give the children and parents something to do on Christmas Eve; the presents are wrapped, the kids are excitable and they don't want to go to sleep - take them for a nice, long stravage (walk) and Father Christmas can come in peace.'

? This year half the money raised from the pageant will go to the support charity Fibromyalgia Association UK. The remaining funds will be used to buy Christmas gifts for Mundesley residents who are spending December 25 alone.

And for the first time this year the village is holding a free Christmas Day lunch for those who would otherwise be by themselves. There are still seats available at the table in the Church Rooms, anyone who would like to join diners should call 01263 720852.