One of the most enchanting, but also one of the most interesting aspects of the nativity story, is that Jesus is born in a stable – a barn! – with animals for company. The message is clear: here was a baby born for everyone, to serve rather than to rule, to support the weak or vulnerable and to value all.
In its own little way, ‘The Inn Crowd’ is a celebration of this. The animals – who feel so marginalised, isolated and inferior at the beginning of the play – are the first to witness the birth of Jesus, the first to feel his influence and to be buoyed by his presence. The play may adopt a relatively light-hearted approach to the events of the first Christmas, but at its heart is a strong message of acceptance, support and love – as important at Christmas as at any other time of the year.
The play begins with an introductory song, setting the town of Bethlehem at the very heart of events (THIS IS BETHLEHEM).
Briefly, we see Mary, Joseph and a donkey still travelling towards the town. Then action cuts to the stable itself. Oxen, sheep, goats and a cockerel are squashed inside and increasingly irritated by somebody’s snoring. Their irritation moves to the stable itself: too cramped, too cold, too smelly, unhygienic. They are jealous of the ‘inn crowd’, the humans staying at the inn who seem to have all the creature comforts (ALL OF THE ANIMALS).
Our narrators lead us to the inn, with travellers arriving to take the final beds. Those who are already there are having a real knees up at the inn, led by their congenial hosts - the innkeeper and his wife (THE INN CROWD).
Back at the stable, the animals – still awake because of the noise at the inn - feel marginalized and rather second-rate. They have the idea of gatecrashing the party, but they realise that they can’t open the barn door.
The party is beginning to wind down at the inn, guests retiring to their beds. There is a knock at the door – it is Mary and Joseph. There is no room for them: they will have to look elsewhere. But then the innkeeper remembers his stable.
The animals in the stable are surprised at the arrival of Mary and Joseph and observe quietly (WEARY TRAVELLERS).
Meanwhile, shepherds in the fields are visited by some angels, telling them of Jesus’ birth (SHEPHERDS ON THE HILLSIDE). Baby Jesus is born. Off go the shepherds to the stable, where they find the animals in quiet awe, gazing at the sleeping baby Jesus.
The Three Wise Men arrive too, offering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They sing the baby back to sleep (IN A HUMBLE STABLE).
The ‘inn crowd’ have woken, sensing something is occurring. They try to squeeze into the stable too, but there is no room for them. They try to get the animals to budge, but the animals are going nowhere.
The animals realise how lucky they are to be in the stable at such a momentous occasion. Maybe it’s not such a bad place after all. (SPREAD THE JOY)
The play has been written with 52 speaking parts. This number could easily be reduced or increased - see p9 of the book. There is also plenty to do for a large ensemble.
The parts fall roughly into four groups – the animals, the ‘inn crowd’, the shepherds/sheep/angels, and the others – with the animals divided further by type (see p7 of the book for 'Characters By Lines'). All characters could be played both by boys and girls, with names altered to suit if felt necessary. The editable WORD script, available for £9.95 when the performance licence is also purchased, will make the process of adjusting quite straightforward.