Event Report: The Nativity 2 Premiere

The UK première of Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger starring David Tennant, Marc Wootton, Joanna Page and Jessica Hynes was held last night at the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square.

Approaching Leicester Square from the wrong side on Tuesday evening, you might be forgiven for thinking you had wandered into some sort of post-Apocalyptic scene - bright lights, some sort of semi-erected chaos in the centre of the square, heavy machinery, and groups of pale young people huddled together in enclosures, clutching sleeping bags and rucksacks. Closer inspection made it clear that it was just the preparations for the Wednesday night big première: the latest instalment in the Twilight franchise, and that gangs of fans were preparing to spend the night in the open in order to secure the best barrier spots the following evening. So how on earth was the opening of Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger to be celebrated with all of this going on? However, scooting round to the back of the monstrous construction revealed that one side of the Square had indeed been transformed into a Christmas wonderland! Valued tickets in hand, it was time to walk the red carpet ahead of watching this year's big festive cinema hit.

It was actually quite a miracle that we were there at all. The word was that tickets were like hens' teeth. There are a lot of young performers involved in the film, and it was quite right and proper that the priority tickets should go to them and their families, and also the young stars from the original Nativity!, released in 2009. Therefore it was a frustrating rollercoaster of emotion before finally, finally, beyond even the eleventh hour, as the clock ticked over into Tuesday morning, the message came through that we would indeed be able to attend.

The Twilight construction had encroached on the Empire frontage to such an extent that the narrow entrance to the red carpet was sluggish and views from the queue restricted. Thus we missed the moment when David Tennant first spotted his co-star Marc Wootton and jumped on his back, only to have Marc retaliate by lifting him bodily and carry him like a new bride. We also missed the arrival of most of the stars of the film, although we did see David bounding out of his car and straight up to greet the waiting fans, looking dashing and elegant in a charcoal suit and tie, still sporting the Broadchurch beard. He spent some time signing and posing for photos before being dragged across to the other side of the carpet to meet the press.

Eventually we were through the barrier and mingling with the guests on the red carpet. By this time David was already busy on the press line so we didn't get a chance to say hello, but thanks to the Fooling Nobody website we were quickly introduced to the lovely Marc Wootton. We also managed to catch up with young actor Ben Wilby, who, at just ten years old, looked a natural on the walkway, sharp as anything in his tuxedo with his hair full of glitter. Also present were a very pregnant Joanna Page, along with Jason Watkins, Jessica Hynes, Ian McNeice, songwriter Nicky Ager, director Debbie Isitt and, of course, the many child stars of the film. Archie the Donkey was conspicuous by his absence. Other celebrities spotted included Jill Halfpenny, Arabella Weir, BBC Children's TV legend Johnny Ball and DJ Sara Cox. Première goers were entertained by a performance by the Choir of the Blue Coat C of E School, Coventry.

It has to be said that, as glamorous as the red carpet experience was it was also pretty cold so it was a relief to get inside and defrost and to wait for the stars of the film, in particular David, to finish giving interviews. Into the cavernous interior of Empire Screen 1, and we found our seats - right in the front row. That posed a dilemma. Normally front row seats produce neck-ache, eye strain and a mild sense of vertigo. However, on this occasion there was the undoubted advantage of a hundred minutes of bombardment by retina-hogging close-ups of David Tennant. A few moments weighing up the issue gave the conclusion that there were definitely more pros than cons in that situation. Debbie Isitt shortly took to the front to introduce the winner and runner up from the children's Song For Christmas mall tour competition that took place over half term, both of whom sang their prizewinning songs. She then introduced the adult stars to the stage, welcoming the new members of the Nativity family: David, Joanna, Ian and Jessica in joining the returning cast of Marc, Jason and Ben (and not forgetting the absent Pam Ferris). The kids involved, too numerous to call to the front, were encouraged to stand up and give a rousing cheer.

And so to the main event - the film itself. Of course we have already reviewed it here and here (beware - both contain spoilers), but what was so heartwarming this time was seeing it in the company of the young stars of the film and their families as they celebrated one anothers' appearances with cheers and plenty of riotous laughter. It was a genuine, joyous, festive experience and it was actually very hard this time round, not to want to join in with the applause for each song in the competition. The final credits earned another unanimous round of applause, and as we spilled back out into the foyer there was a general sense of happiness and celebration. There was a final chance to say goodnight to the stars, including Marc and Jason, and also to let Debbie know how much we had enjoyed the film - and Debbie also remembered us from our meeting in Manchester.

And then, back out into the autumnal chill. Some of the stars and crew with friends and families headed up the road to an after party at the Cafe de Paris. The rest of us wandered off in search of a bite to eat and the last train home. The red carpet was gone, the barrier dismantled. The Twihards had purloined the Nativity 2 hoarding boards, presumably to use to construct some sort of rudimentary overnight shelter. We were left counting down the days until we can go and see the film again (that's nine. Just nine days)

Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger goes on general release in the UK on Friday 23rd November. Don't miss it - or Father Christmas will have you straight on the naughty list.

Big thanks go out to Fooling Nobody and also to DT Forum


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