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Nativity poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDebbie Isitt[1]
Written byDebbie Isitt
Produced byNick Jones[1]
CinematographySeán Van Hales
Edited byNicky Ager
Music by
  • Nicky Ager
  • Debbie Isitt
  • Mirrorball Films
  • BBC Films
  • Screen WM
  • Protagonist Pictures
Distributed byE1 Entertainment
Release date
  • 27 November 2009 (2009-11-27)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$2,443,493 or £1,847,561.95
Box office$8,494,434 or £6,422,769.81

Nativity! is a 2009 British Christmas musical comedy film directed by Debbie Isitt and released on 27 November 2009 and the first instalment in the Nativity film series. The film stars Martin Freeman and Ashley Jensen. In the film teacher Paul Maddens (Freeman) lies to his rival that Hollywood are coming to watch his school's Christmas nativity, but after the lie gets out of hand, he must resolve the issue fast. The film was written by its director, Debbie Isitt, but was also partially improvised.[2] The film premiered on 23 November 2009 in the SkyDome Arena, Coventry, England.[3]

It was released in cinemas on 27 November 2009. The film was followed by Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger (2012), Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? (2014),[4] and Nativity Rocks! (2018).

In 2017 a stage musical adaptation premiered and has since toured the UK over the subsequent Christmas seasons.


Paul Maddens is a teacher at St Bernadette's Catholic primary school in Coventry. Paul once had ambitions of being successful as an actor, producer or director. Every year St Bernadette's competes with Oakmoor, a local Protestant private school, to see who can produce the best nativity play.

Paul hates Christmas because his girlfriend at drama school, Jennifer Lore, broke up with him at Christmas time. His headteacher, Mrs Bevan, tasks him with running their nativity play and gives him a new teaching assistant named Mr Poppy, who turns out to be more of a child than the students.

Paul's rival from drama school, Gordon Shakespeare, runs the nativity plays at Oakmoor. Determined not to be seen as a failure, Paul lies to Shakespeare about how a Hollywood producer, Jennifer, will be turning his production into a Hollywood film (though he hasn't spoken to her in five years). Mr Poppy overhears this and is so excited that he spreads the story to the press. Paul finds his lie is out of control, and all he can do is go along with it as media attention mounts and the children get very excited.

The children are nowhere near as talented as the Oakmoor students, and Paul has little confidence in their abilities. The enthusiastic Mr Poppy helps him and the class to create an energetic, interesting nativity which showcases all of the children's unique (and often strange) talents.

Paul tries to contact Jennifer to make the lie come true, even travelling to America to persuade her to visit. It turns out that she is only the secretary to a film producer, and he returns home disappointed.

Amid continuing media attention and the Mayor's kind offer to allow the play to be performed in the historical ruins of Coventry Cathedral, Mrs Bevans discovers that the Hollywood story was a lie and cancels the play, advising Paul to start looking for another job and firing Mr Poppy in the process. This causes Paul to snap at Mr Poppy about everything going wrong, but he comes to his senses when facing his disappointed class and decides that the show must go on.

The play is performed at the cathedral to an audience of the children's parents and family friends. The production is amazingly good, to the surprise of everyone involved. Halfway through, Gordon climbs on stage to tell everybody that there is nobody from Hollywood there and the entire story was a lie. Luckily, a helicopter flies over and Mr Poppy declares that it's Hollywood arriving; the show continues, and Jennifer and her producer indeed appear at the back to watch. Paul joins them and, still in love, kisses Jennifer. The play ends with everyone, including Gordon and Mrs Bevans (who has a change of heart), reunited onstage to celebrate the children's success.

As the film closes, Paul and Jennifer are shown decorating his house together for Christmas, reunited at last.


Mr Maddens' Class Mr. Shakespeare's Class
Alexandra Allen as Cleo Adeste McLeod as Grace
Ben Wilby as Bob Anna Price as Ellen
Bernard Mensah as TJ Arun Nahar as Jake
Brandon McDonald as Olly Bessie Cursons as Christy
Cadi Mullane as Crystal Bethany Carter as Daisy
Caitlin Cronin as Lucy Charlie Dixon as Thomas
Dominic McKernan as Dan Cherie Ng as Nicola
Ellie Coldicutt as Beth Eleanor Bonas as Rachel
Faye Dolan as Jade Francesca York as Caroline
James Warner as Buddy Freddie Watkins as Sebastian
Jake Pratt as Alfie Georgina Owen as Emily
Joe Lane as Edward Hannah Ciotknowski as Elizabeth
Joshan Patel as Bill Harriet Kilner as Charlotte
Krista Hyatt as Becky Hayley Downing as Victoria
Maeve Dolan as Sam Imogen Stern as Phoebe
Michael McAuley as William Katie Maguire as Megan
Milly Webb as Neve Katie Stafford as Molly
Morgan Brennan as Charlotte Lauren Downing as Joanne
Rebecca Maguire as Saffron Lily-Rose Sharry as Lynette
Reece Stowe as Fraser Michael Brown as Charles
Rhyannon Jones as Alice Molly Burton as Catherine
Sam Tott as Matt Mi Tuulikki Kelly as Lorna
Sydney Isitt-Ager as Sadie Safiya Asharia as Sophie
Thomas McGarrity as Zack Salim Zayyan as Percival
Oscar Steer as Billy Behrad Koohy as Harry
Harvey Flanagan as Tyrese Chris Reynolds as Freddy
Tomas Ferris as Charlie Stephen Mitchell as George


The film was first announced in August 2008, when it was announced Martin Freeman would star.[6] Principal photography began in the same month.

Box office[edit]

When released in the United Kingdom, the movie opened at #5, taking £794,314 at the box office in the United Kingdom. In its third week, the movie rose to #4, and in the end, made £5,187,402.[7]


Stage musical[edit]

A stage musical adaptation of the film written and directed by Debbie Isitt and composed by Nicky Ager opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in October 2017. Since its world premiere the musical has toured the UK over the Christmas seasons, including runs at London's Hammersmith Apollo which have featured guest star celebrities such as Louis Walsh, Danny Dyer, Dani Dyer, Jo Brand, Rylan Clark-Neal and Sharon Osbourne.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Principal photography commences on Debbie Isitt's Nativity". BBC. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  2. ^ PA Entertainment (11 August 2008). "BBC's Nativity comedy". Virgin Media. Archived from the original on 14 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  3. ^ "Nativity night comes to Coventry". BBC Coventry & Warwickshire. BBC. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Debbie Isitt on Twitter".
  5. ^ McMullen, Marion (17 September 2008). "Alan Carr and Martin Freeman put Coventry on movie map". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2008.
  6. ^ "Martin Freeman to star in 'Nativity'". 12 August 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  7. ^ UK Film Council – UK Box Office: 12 – 14 February 2010

External links[edit]