Good Friday Passion Play in city-centre shopping square
19 April 2019
Hundreds gathered in the bright afternoon sunshine under the glass canopy of Anglia Square in Norwich on Good Friday to witness the medieval tradition of the church using street theatre to tell stories from the Bible.
The ancient story set against a very modern backdrop was brought to life in a whole new way. Over 200 people watched standing or seated on deckchairs, blankets or the concrete paving stones. There was something about the setting that made it all the more powerful and raw.
It was a relaxed environment: people munching their sandwiches, coming and going, snapping pictures on their phones, but that also made is accessible.
Arranging it in that environment was not without its challenges. Writer and director of the one-hour play, Kandi Kammoun said:
“If we are to understand even the tiniest iota of what He went through both physically and emotionally, then we had to be prepared to push ourselves too.”
Through the Angel Gabriel’s narrative lens, we were made privy to actions and emotions which lent a new perspective to a story that many of us may feel we already know well enough.
Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick said;
“The original events of Jesus’s last days and death took place in public – the drama literally unfolded on the streets with hundreds of people around. Retelling the story in Anglia Square, surrounded by shops and shoppers, therefore felt very fitting.
“As an actor, I’m always struck by the emotion and reality of doing it in a setting like this.”. We are hoping that we have made the old story sing in a new way, that the love released into the world then can fire us again now.”
The audience witnessed John the Baptist urging repentance, Jesus preaching a new interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, the events of Holy Week in the dangerous streets of Jerusalem, the simmering anger of Judas Iscariot and his final betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Eric Kirk manager of Anglia Square said:
“Anglia square is pleased to carry on its tradition of working with local churches whether it is beer and carols or hosting a messy church for children. To be host to an open-air Passion Play has been a special privilege.”
The cast entered the square at 3 pm in procession chanting ‘Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord’. The story began with Jesus’ baptism and Angel Gabriel, the play’s narrator, played by Bishop Jonathan, filled in the background.
The play centred around episodes from the Holy Week with the Revd Dean Akrill as the tortured Jesus, plagued by temptation from a comedic devil acted by the Revd Dr Charles Read.
During Jesus’ prolonged temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Bishop’s Angel Gabriel sang an emotional ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ to loud applause.
At the trial of Jesus, the audience joined in with shouts of “Free Barabbas!” and then watched in discomfort as Jesus carried the cross around Anglia Square.
Following the crucifixion, made graphic by Jesus’ tortured face, Mary sobbed over Jesus’ dead body as the song ‘Mary Did You Know?’ by Pentatonix played across the Square. By the end, the audience didn’t know whether to clap or cry. As the shock subsided they joined in with hearty applause.
[with thanks to Network Norfolk for some of the content of this article]
Categories:Evangelism & Mission