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Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 13:34 GMT
Church backs Bond-style nativity
James Bond The nativity, Kent-style

A controversial James Bond-style version of the nativity is a "Shakespeare in modern-day", the Archbishop of Canterbury's office has said.

The play, Secret Angels, is an up-to-date adaptation of the story of the birth of Christ.

It is currently touring the country but a 19 December production at St Mary Bredin Church, in the diocese of Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, has caused the biggest stir.

Nativity A more traditional nativity scene
It will be enacted by 40 children aged 10 to 14, and the central characters are to be angels engaged in Operation Emmanuel.

"A local church is trying to bring the nativity story up to date," Dr Carey's spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"Instead of using flaming swords they were going to use guns. It's a bit like doing Shakespeare in modern-day."

The spokesperson added that, contrary to newspaper reports, Dr Carey had not ordered an inquiry into the play.

"The Archbishop hasn't made any comment on this play and nor does he intend to," she said.

She also defended the original decision by director Alis Vile to allow the children to use plastic guns.

"One of the boys asked if they could use guns and Mrs Vile said yes. That doesn't mean they're not controlling it," she said.

St Mary Bredin Church has since decided, following negative headlines in several of Tuesday's newspapers, to drop guns from the 19 December production.

Bloody and messy

The Oasis Trust homeless charity, which thought up the idea for the play, was unhappy with the use of guns.

Angels don't wear Marks and Spencer nighties
The Oasis Trust

"We did not suggest the use of guns," the charity's founding director Steve Chalke told the BBC. "That would not be the wisest thing."

Mr Chalke added that he had been to a version of the play on Saturday.

"It was a gun-free zone," he said, but rejected suggestions that the combative tone of the script in general was inappropriate.

"Angels don't wear Marks and Spencer nighties," he said. "Angels like fairies hovering over a Chanel-smelling stable bears no relation to what really happened.

"It's all a bit more bloody and messy in reality."

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See also:
04 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Bethlehem begins millennium celebrations
01 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Old Bonds voted best
30 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Bond's box office haul
19 Nov 99 |  Shaken Not Stirred
Four decades of Bondage

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