Nativity has banker instead of Herod and homeless people as the shepherds

Lesley Paul, David West and Jack Orway Also known as Mary, Joseph and Jesus

Lesley Paul, David West and Jack Orway Also known as Mary, Joseph and Jesus

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It’s a million miles away from the traditional school nativity play.

There is a banker instead of King Herod, homeless people replacing shepherds – and even an astronomer as one of the wise men.

The story of the birth of Jesus – updated to modern times and set in Edinburgh – is to be told in an outdoor production in Festival Square this Thursday, with crowds of up to 2000 people expected to turn out.

“It’s a modern adaptation and people will be wearing up-to-date clothing and speaking with colloquial accents,” said Suzanne Lofthaus, of Cutting Edge Theatre Productions.

“The shepherds are homeless people who have fallen on hard times and instead of Herod, we’ll have the chief executive of a large bank.

“The wise men will be businessmen and an astronomer.”

The Edinburgh Nativity is a collaboration between Edinburgh City Centre Churches Together, Oasis Ministry to the Business Community, Business Matters and Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland. It is written by the award-winning playwright Rob Drummond and directed by Suzanne Lofthaus, with the aim of raising awareness of what the “real” message of Christmas is about.

Earlier this year, a talent search was launched to find a cast – including, of course, a baby to play Jesus – with a strict rule that no professional actors were to be involved.

Around 100 people are behind the production, including an acting cast of 25 and a 40-strong choir. It will be performed on two stages, but actors will also be mingling with the crowd.

Ms Lofthaus said: “Trying to get the funding has been difficult, but the hope is this will become an annual event.

“I love the fact everyone works together – from the person that makes the teas to the actor with the starring role.”

The event has been supported by Edinburgh City Council and BBC Big Screens.

Ben Williams is the convenor of St Cuthbert’s Oasis Ministry to the Business Community, which offers support to workers under particular strain or who are at risk of redundancy.

He said: “We’ve been working on this project since May – the whole thing took a lot of organising.

“Festival Square has a capacity of between 1500 and 2000 people and so far, 900 tickets have been sold.

“We’re hoping we will get a lot of people coming along who do not have a church connection.

“It won’t be a performance you would normally see in a church hall or a school – it’s a serious production telling the story of the birth of Christ. It really is an astounding piece of drama.

“Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Saviour and I think a very useful way of doing this is to put it into a modern context.”

n The Edinburgh Nativity will be staged in Festival Square, Lothian Road, on Thursday between 6pm and 7pm. In the case of bad weather, it will be held over two consecutive performances in St Cuthbert’s Church. Free e-tickets are available online at www.redshedtickets.com.