Nativity! (film)

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Nativity poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDebbie Isitt [1]
Produced byNick Jones [1]
Written byDebbie Isitt
StarringMartin Freeman
Ashley Jensen
Jason Watkins
Marc Wootton
Alan Carr
Pam Ferris
Ricky Tomlinson
Music byNicky Ager
Debbie Isitt
CinematographySean Van Hales
Edited byNicky Ager
Mirrorball Films
BBC Films
Screen WM
Distributed byFreestyle Releasing
E1 Entertainment
Release date
  • 27 November 2009 (2009-11-27)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£5,187,402

Nativity! is a 2009 British Christmas comedy film directed by Debbie Isitt and released on 27 November 2009 and the first in the Nativity (film series). The film stars Martin Freeman and Ashley Jensen. 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, three weeks after rival festive film Disney's A Christmas Carol opened. A sequel Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger was released in November 2012, and a third film, Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?, was released in November 2014.[4]


Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is a "frustrated, under-achieving primary school teacher"[1] who once had ambitions of being successful as an actor, producer or director. Every year St Bernadette's Catholic school in Coventry, where he teaches, competes with a local Protestant private school (Oakmoor) to see who can produce the best nativity play.

Paul hates Christmas because his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Lore (Ashley Jensen), who attended drama school with him, left him at Christmas before he could propose to her. Despite this, the St Bernadette's headteacher Mrs Bevans (Pam Ferris) tasks him with running their nativity play this year, and gives him a new class teaching assistant called Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton), who turns out to be as much of a child as the rest of Paul's class.

As every year, it is one of Paul's other friends from drama school, Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins), who runs the nativity plays at rival school Oakmoor. Determined not to be seen as a failure by his old rival, Paul lies to Shakespeare about how a Hollywood producer—their old friend Jennifer—will be turning his production into a Hollywood film, though he hasn't even spoken to her in five years. Mr Poppy accidentally overhears this and is so excited that he has to spread the rumour. Soon, 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 more and more excited.

Unfortunately, the St Bernadette's children don't seem to be anywhere near as talented as Shakespeare's Oakmoor class, and Paul finds it difficult to have confidence in their abilities. However, enthusiastic and childlike 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. Meanwhile, Paul tries to find a way to contact Jennifer to make the lie come true, even travelling to America to try to persuade her to visit. However, it turns out that she is only a secretary, not a film producer, and he returns home disappointed.

Finally, amid continuing media attention and the Mayor's kind offer to allow the play to be performed in Coventry Cathedral, Mrs Bevans discovers that the Hollywood story was a lie and cancels the play, advising Paul to start looking for another job. Resigned, Paul shouts at Mr Poppy and blames him for many things that have gone wrong, but 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, but there is no sign of any Hollywood producers, despite how good the play has turned out to be—and the fact that Mrs Bevans was initially furious to hear that her order had been ignored.

Halfway through, jealous Gordon Shakespeare 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 come to see the play; the show continues, and Jennifer and her film producer boss finally come in at the back to watch the end, joined by Paul, who is still in love with Jennifer and kisses her.The play is a success, and everyone, including Shakespeare and Mrs Bevans (who had a change of heart), is 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.


The film was first announced in August 2008, when it was announced Martin Freeman would star.[5] Principal photography began in the same month.


Mr Maddens' Class Mr Shakespeare's Class
Alexandra Allen as Cleo Aidofe McLeod as Grace
Ben Wilby as Bob Anna Price as Ellen
Bernard Mensah as TJ Arun Nahar as Jake
Brandon McDonald as Oli 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 McGaritty as Zack Salim Zayyan as Percival
Oscar Steer as Auditionee Taylor Drew as Harry
Harvey Flanagan as Tyrese Chris Reynolds as Freddy

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]

On 17 November 2016, it was announced that the film will be adapted into a stage musical, with it making its world premiere at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in October 2017, before touring to Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, Manchester Palace Theatre, Plymouth Theatre Royal, Eventim Apollo, and Leeds Grand Theatre over the Christmas season. It was written and directed by Debbie Isitt, with music by Isitt and Nicky Ager, choreography by Andrew Wright and design by David Woodhead.

It was produced by Jamie Wilson, Entertainment One, Ramin Sabi, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry and Birmingham Repertory Theatre.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "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. ^
  5. ^ "Martin Freeman to star in 'Nativity'". 12 August 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  6. ^ McMullen, Marion (17 September 2008). "Alan Carr and Martin Freeman put Coventry on movie map". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2008.
  7. ^ UK Film Council - UK Box Office: 12 - 14 February 2010

External links[edit]