Iconic play features a 40-strong cast, real animals and even a real baby

The cast of Fife Nativity in 2014
The cast of Fife Nativity in 2014

Preparations are well advanced for a unique event that’s caught the imagination of people from all over Fife and beyond for more than 20 years.

The iconic Fife Nativity play – which is held outdoors and features live animals as well as a real baby as the newborn Jesus – takes place over three nights in December at Fife Zoo, near Collessie in north east Fife.

It’s making a welcome return after taking a break last year to allow cast and crew to recharge their batteries.

“This will be the 20th time the Fife Nativity has been held and it promises to be bigger and better than ever,” said producer Eugene Adams.

“It’s the first time we’ve staged the play at Fife Zoo and we’re confident that this year’s performance will be really special.”

Once known as Fife Animal Park, the zoo was taken over last year by Briony Taylor and Michael Knight, a young couple who are both wildlife biologists.

And according to Eugene, forms the perfect backdrop for the ambitious production.

“It’s something of a blank canvas for us,” he said.

“It offers plenty of opportunity to be creative with the space and the fact that there’s a restaurant and plenty of parking makes it an even more attractive proposition for the audience.”

Anyone planning to see the play is advised to wrap up warmly as it all takes place outdoors, with shepherds in the fields minding real sheep, Mary and Joseph arriving at the stable with a real donkey and the three wise men making a spectacular entrance astride magnificent horses.

The audience follows the cast – who are all amateurs – as the story unfolds.

Of course the story never changes and though it may be a simple one, staging the event – run on a not-for-profit basis – is a sophisticated and costly exercise.

The committee work hard all year fund-raising and rely heavily on the generosity and goodwill of local people prepared to lend everything from goats to hay bales in order to give the production the authenticity that attracts thousands.

Whether you have a faith or not, you can’t help being swept along as the huge cast perform the greatest story ever told.

“It’s a really family-friendly event”, says Eugene, whose daughter Chrissy, now aged eight, is one of those to have the honour of portraying baby Jesus.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Christian, it provides a welcome escape from the consumerism of the festive season and reminds us of the real rason we celebrate Christmas.”

The last time the play was staged was in 2014 at Cairnie Fruit Farm just outside Cupar, when the role of Mary and Jesus were played by Donna Jennings and her baby son Jacob, then aged just eight weeks.

It was a particularly moving occasion for Donna and her husband Tom, as their first child, Sam, had died suddenly on a family outing to Cairnie five years earlier, aged just five.

This year’s play, which is being directed for the third year by Chris Duffy, will take place the week before Christmas. There are two performances on Saturday, December 17, at 5pm and 7pm; one at 5pm on Sunday,December 18, and one at 7pm on Monday, December 19.

To book, visit www.fifenativityplay.org.uk