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Epsom Passion Play 2018

 

 I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross  between two thieves;  on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan  that they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut and, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is what he died about

George Macleod

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Report by Anne Fraser

This portrayal of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus, took place on a rather damp and cold Good Friday, 30 March.  The Prologue and Act One were performed at Dulshott Green before moving on during Act Two to the stage at the Market Place for Acts Three and Four.  The crowd were to be part of the drama, taking the lead from the costumed actors.  It was directed by Craig Donovan.

So, to Dulshott Green. Ten o’clock. The Prologue had been read out and the first Act of the dramatization of Jesus’ passion had begun. Almost immediately, and for some time, the heavens opened and a sea of umbrellas complemented the scene while the actors (wisely insulated against the cold) valiantly soldiered on.

Soon in the garden of Gethsemane the disciples slept. An anguished Jesus knelt in prayer and supplication, but he knew what had to be done and he knew the time had come.  Judas took the silver and we watched as he led the Pharisees to Jesus, the betrayal and arrest swift and brutal. Taken before the High Priest and Chief Priest, particularly splendid in their regalia, Jesus was accused of blasphemy. The Epsom crowd had now transformed into the hostile, ugly mob, and were calling for Jesus’ blood, “Crucify him!” Although part of the enactment, in reality for us, not such comfortable words to say.   In the courtyard, Peter denied Jesus a third time; the cock crowed and we felt his devastation.   The Pharisees took Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to seal his fate.  It was Passover, and Pilate, dressed to reflect the full weight of imperial authority, was allowed to release a prisoner. “We want Barabbas” we called in response to Pilate’s infamous question: Do you want me to set free for you Jesus of Nazareth?  “Crucify him!” again came the cry.  Pilate washed his hands and bowed to the demands of the crowd: there was to be no clemency for this “King of the Jews”.  Jesus’ sayings rang through the air.  No-one cared about the poor and needy.  No-one was listening.  He was led away to carry his cross on the road to Calvary and to his execution.

It was time to move on.  We talked quietly – Why had Judas done it? Had he wanted the money for the poor? Others walked in contemplation as we moved in procession to the market place. The crowd soon reached perhaps 600 in number.  Sixty four New Testaments & Psalms were offered and all accepted, useful conversations held, leaflets on local churches and the Christian faith handed out.  Children stood on posts and craned necks, dogs wagged their tails.  Interesting smells from the burger stall wafted along.  Some shoppers passed through carrying their bags, others stopped to sing and watch.  The Mayor, Councillor Liz Frost and her husband Chris along with Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Neil Dallen, had come along to join with us, mingling as part of the crowd.  Later, an ambulance went by, blue lighting but with its siren off as a mark of respect.  This was a real community event in the heart of Epsom. 

We watched, flinching, as Jesus was hung on the cross, the nails hammered in.  The sombre moment was rendered even more heart-breaking as the singers gave voice so beautifully, “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?”  As the story of Jesus’ passion enfolded, we were gripped by its powerful re-telling.  Jesus was mocked by the soldiers.  His friends, shocked and despondent, wondered what was to happen next.  Individual reflections from the stage drew us into the personal stories of these people.  The action was made all the more moving by musical interludes from well-loved hymns and songs, “Blessed be your name

On the road marked with suffering……”

 Jesus commended his spirit into the hands of his Father.   It was finished.   As he was taken down, the singers commenced a sorrowful “When I survey the wondrous cross” bringing home that the sacrifice had been made. The crowd joined in the hymn and sang “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast.” and “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

And now to the final Act.  The fear, perplexion, doubt and ultimate joy of the Resurrection soon followed.  The tomb was empty, the three women, blazing in red, the first witnesses.  Mary Magdalene, now emboldened by her encounter with the risen Lord, once more spoke out the Easter message: that the Father will accept anyone who will respond to his love and accept his forgiveness.  We triumphantly sang “He is Lord, He is Lord, He is risen from the dead..” and celebrated with a victorious rendition of “Thine Be the Glory”. Chris Shaw, Methodist Minister and Chair of CTiE, closed in prayer, reminding us again of the depth of God’s love for us all.  The prayer tent stood ready for prayer, information, reflection or simply a quiet chat.  We once more huddled under brollies as the rain started to fall. Back at the Methodist Church a warm welcome and hot cross buns awaited us.

The hard work been worth it and this was a great team effort. Congratulations to Craig Donovan for directing and Andy Hards for playing the role of Jesus.  Our grateful thanks also go to all those who played their part quietly, behind the scenes, before and during the event: wardrobe, technicians, actors, musicians, technicians, publicity logistics, stewarding, and hospitality from all of the local churches.  All contributed in sharing the story of Easter with the people of Epsom and worked faithfully together to make an impact on the town.

A special thank you also to:

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council for allowing us to use the marketplace.

And to Southfield Park school, Rosebery School and Kingswood House for the loan of sound equipment and staging.

As well as Lantern Arts for costumes, and to Rainbow Gardening for transport

 Some material adapted from: "Stages on the Way" by Wild Goose Worship Group

"Reflective Services for Lent, Holy Week and Easter" by Nick Fawcett

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Photographs with thanks to Yan Tan

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After the drama, refreshments were available at Epsom Methodist Church.

Mayor Councillor Liz Frost and her Consort and husband Chris

 

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Please feedback to sacsac@ntlworld.com before the CTiE meeting on 19th April 2018 your reflections on this year’s passion play

What worked well in terms of performance and production?

Perceived impact

The preparation processes

What could be improved?

Ideas for future productions

Your overall perception

What might make the process or performance easier?

Thanks Sue -- Rev Sue Curtis, Producer, Epsom Passion Play