A CCTV Nativity
In 2005 Channel 4 commissioned a one-off celebration of Christmas to utilize the new ‘‘point of view’’ technique. The action was filmed entirely through grainy CCTV cameras and the sound recorded in a muffled tone to suggest undercover surveillance.
The programme caused a storm of controversy in the printed press with Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O'Connor accusing it of being "Sacriligious to the point of blasphemy" and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury decrying its "Poor understanding of the state of microelectronics during the Roman occupation of Palestine."
Act 1 – Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby?
[It is Nazareth in the 10th year of Herod’s reign, legionaries march through the streets, Pharisees oversee the moral instruction of the village while Sadducees search for a job description to let them know what they were meant to be doing. A council flat in a bad part of town.]
[A bearded man in a sports robe and chunky chain fingers his sovereign ring anxiously. A woman sits watching television, calmly rolling a cigarette between fingers tattooed with the words LOVE and HATE.]
Madonna: Quick, Joe. The executions are startin’ again, you’re missin’ it.
Madonna: You found work, Joe? I knew retrainin’ as a carpenter would pay off - there was never gonna be any call for software engineers round ‘ere. We can move out of this dump an’ build a place of our own in time for the baby. I’ll get Mam to help me collect camel shit for makin’ bricks an’ you can bring home some wood to make the roof an’…
Joe: Hold your horses, woman! It ain’t good news – some nonce must have grassed me up to the bloody Welfare people, because they've got wind of the week I worked at the army base knocking out racks for Pilate’s torture-chamber. They say they’re gonna stop me Job-Seeker’s Allowance for not declaring the extra income.
Madonna: But you can’t leave me ‘ere with the baby due!
Madonna: I told you what ‘appened.
Madonna: That’s right.
Joe: Filled you with something, all right. When the baby comes out with gossamer wings and a halo maybe I’ll believe you. But, until then, my money’s on a ginger sprog who looks like the window cleaner.
Joe: Blame me, why don’t you. Well if you think I’m marrying you now, think again. I’m only hanging around for the Child Benefit and the Single Parent’s Allowance, so don’t you forget it.
[Outside the flat, Joe has packed their meagre possessions into two rucksacks. He is filling the side-pockets with cigarettes for the journey, carefully sorting the packets with the "Smoking may harm your unborn baby” warning into his bag, leaving the less dangerous cigarettes for Madonna.]
Madonna: Did you get me any tinnies from the offie?
Joe: I got a case of Miller Lite.
Madonna: Miller Lite? What did you get that Yank piss-water for? I asked for Special Brew.
Joe: Special Brew’s 6%.
[Joe sighs, shoulders both rucksacks and saddles the donkey ]
Madonna: An’ I’m not gettin’ on that! It’ll break me waters. Why didn’t you rent a cart?
Joe: A cart? I’m not made of Denarii.
Madonna: Well, I can’t ride no donkey in my condition.
[Joe sighs again and throws the bags across the donkey’s back. He picks up Madonna and gives her a piggyback. Madonna smiles triumphantly.]
Madonna: An’ don’t drop me neither.
Act 2 – Sin City
[After many days travelling, Joe and Madge approach Bethlehem. They pause on a hill-top at the edge of town, part awed, part terrified by the two story, sky-scraping mud tower-bocks and roads paved with paving.]
Joe: There you go, babe, the bright lights of Bethlehem. They say that on a clear night you can see them up to quarter of a mile away.
Madonna: Get out of it!
Joe: So they say, babe. This ain’t just another one donkey town like Nazareth.
Madonna: I do not fancy him! I just think he’s got kind eyes.
Joe: Right! We’d better be looking for an inn for the night.
Madonna: If you’d bought more Special Brew in that “Bargain Booze” we saw at Galilee like I said, we wouldn’t have run out.
Joe: The journey just took longer than I expected, babe.
Madonna: Well, what did you expect. The traffic’s always mental at Christmas.
[The party pull up in front of the Bethlehem Travelodge. As they walk into the lobby the inn-keeper ushers them back out into the forecourt.]
Joe: No worries, we’re just after a room for the night.
Inn-keeper: Sorry, pal. Fully booked.
Madonna: Yeah, right!
Inn-keeper: No really. I’ve nothing against pikeys, but we’re bursting at the seams in there.
Madonna: I bet there’d be a room if I was a bleedin’ Asylum Seeker.
Madonna: See, what did I say, Joe?
Inn-keeper: But you can get your head down in the stable, if you like.
Joe: Love, if it’s all he’s got… anyway, there’ll be less rats than in our flat.
Act 3 – Birth of a Nation
[Madonna lies between bales of hay screaming. Animals look on passively. But no pigs ... no shellfish, no vultures, nor any other unclean beast.]
[Joe runs in, breathing hard.]
Joe: What is it, babe?
Madonna: It’s the baby, Joe. I think it’s comin’…
Joe: Bollocks, that’s the fifth time you said that since we got here. Any excuse to stop me having a drink with the lads. Just because the barmaid smiled at me when we arrived.
Madonna: 'ow would you know if she smiled at you? You never stopped starin’ at 'er tits. Still, if you’re too scared to stay for the birth you’d better get back to 'er. If the baby’s a girl you can name it after the bitch – if you can find a scribe prepared to register it as “Whore-slut Tramp-skank”.
Joe: Oh, give it a bloody rest! You always go on and on about every little thing. It’s just push, push, push with you.
Madonna: I'm gonna 'ave to push if I wanna get this thing out of me.
Joe: Yeah, that’s right. Name him after your side of the family. Just don’t be putting my name on the birth certificate and looking maintenance.
Shepherd 1: Er, hi! Can we come in? Or is this an inconvenient time?
Joe: (Muttering) It’s a free country, I suppose. Or it would be if the bloody Romans went home.
Shepherd 2: We could come back later, I suppose. Only someone told us to come here.
Shepherd 3: We were just out on the hillside minding our flocks by night and …
Joe: I know what you guys get up to with the flocks by night. We all know what the easy-access smocks are for and the shepherd's crooks that fit conveniently round a sheep’s head.
Shepherd 1: (Blushing) Yeah, anyway, the angel said to, like, follow a star and we’d find the King of Kings in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. And, like, the star’s right over this stable.
Joe: Stars are billions of miles away, retard. Any star over this stable is over every other stable in the country!
Shepherd 3: And he is in a manger, right? What’s he wearing?
Joe: It’s an Arsenal baby-grow. But don’t read anything into that, it was the last one in Mothercare.
Shepherd 2: Well, you could prob’ly swaddle him in that, couldn’t you. Do you mind if we worship him for a bit? We won’t be long, the ewes will be starting to fret.
Joe: Whatever, just close the door behind you on the way out - anyone would think you were brought up in a barn.
Shepherd 1: He’s a bit, like, ginger, isn’t he?
Shepherd 2: Yeah, I was expecting the King of Kings to be a bit more regal-looking.
Shepherd 3: I know what you mean. He looks like a guy I used to know at school. Really liked ladders, for some reason.
Joe: What do you want? You're not bloody carol singers, I hope.
Caspar: We are Wisemen from the East. We have followed a distant star…
Caspar: We have followed a distant comet…
Balthazar: Could have been a meteor.
Joe: What do you want?
Caspar: We’ve been following a distant star in search of the King of the Jews who was born this day.
Joe: How do you know he was born this day.
Melchior: We drew up his horoscope and…
Joe: Oh, well, if you’ve done his horoscope I take it all back. He must have been born this day.
Caspar: And we have seen great Herod who told us to seek out the child wherever we may find him.
Balthazar: Only, like, I don’t trust him, man. I think he followed us, cause every time I turned round in town there was some fella with a crown staring into a shop-window. I’s reckoning he wants to do your kid some serious damage.
Madonna: Oh, I don’t think so. Not King Herod, not with those eyes. Why would anyone want to harm a baby?
Balthazar: Maybe because he’s a ginge…
Caspar: What my colleague meant to say was “Gloria, Gloria, hosanna in excelsis”.
Joe: Look, mate. My wife’s just had a baby and the last thing we need is a bunch of tossers in fancy dress barging in and babbling on in foreign. So why don’t you just follow your star to some other stable and leave us alone.
Caspar: But the star led us to this inn.
Balthazar: An’ like, all the other inns we been to said “No travellers”
Melchior: Please, good sir, allow us to bide a while. We wish only to adore your child.
Joe: Are you some sort of paedophile ring?
Joe: Yeah? Well smellies are all very nice but, if it’s all the same to you, the missus could use her privacy right now.
Caspar: And we also brought Gold to honour him.
Joe: She’ll probably want to show the rug-rat off a bit, mind. Just for a few minutes, though, she needs her rest. But don't you go telling the Welfare Nazis about these gifts or they'll stop the Child Benefit too.
Balthazar: Chill, guy. Take the weight off an' relax 'cause we's also brought some quality 'erb, man. Check this out. But ya didn’ get that from us, right! Know what I’m sayin’?
Balthazar: Whoa, man. I wasn’ expectin’ the King of Kings to be a ginge, man.
Melchior: He has a face most redolent of someone who we have seen before. Perchance I’ll recall him soon.
Balthazar: Yeah, I know where you’re comin’ from, man. He looks just like that bloke on that film we seen. Remember, the one where that blonde was undressin' in her room and someone climbed in through the window with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge?