A gritty portrayal of the nativity story is getting a largely positive reaction.

Soul by the Sea, which hit the headlines in 2010 with its production of The Passion of Christ, is performing an alternative nativity at St Mary’s Church in St James Street, Brighton.

Director James Burke-Dunsmore was keen to be true to the scripture.

Soul by the Sea’s Sarah Gartside said: “We’re just trying to portray what historically happened, taken from the Bible.

“The audience has liked that we are getting back to the original scripture.

“It is gritty, it is a real story. It’s not all sweet and tinseltown.

“Especially how Mary would have been treated and how she was feeling was accurately portrayed.

“Being told you’re pregnant, out of wedlock, was controversial and unusual.

“Some people will always prefer the more recognised version and perhaps find this a bit challenging.

“But I have only had positive feedback.”

Jacalyn Oghan, 49, is one of the actors in the production, along with her two daughters aged six and seven.

She said the production is not as gory as it may sound: “It is from the Bible which does have gritty scenes.

“The most unsettling part is Herod’s slaughter of the children but it is very sensitively handled by the wonderful director.”

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