Epsom Passion Play 2019

Report by Anne Fraser

THE EPSOM PASSION PLAY CTiE 2019

This portrayal of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus was staged on a gloriously sunny morning on Good Friday, 19th April 2019.  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 produced and directed by Sue Curtis. 

To Dulshott Green.  A worship song played out over the air as the crowd gathered and waited in anticipation. The sun shone and it seemed hard to turn to a story of suffering and pain.

Soon Judas was secretly and furtively consorting with the Priests, lurking in the shadows.  What would it take for him to betray Jesus to the authorities?  They knew his frustration, his fury, his weakness.  The silver dropped into his palm. 

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus almost desperately shook a sleeping Peter and exhorted him to watch and pray but the disciples slept on. Now alone, Jesus knelt in prayer and supplication. Then he knew that the cup was his and that his Father’s will would be done.  The betrayal and arrest swiftly followed. The soldiers with imperial swagger called “make way for Rome” and we did.  Jesus was dragged unceremoniously through the crowd to be taken before Caiaphas and accused of blasphemy.

 In the courtyard, Peter was not about to own up to knowing Jesus.  The servant woman sweeping there was pretty insistent, recognising that with that funny accent he must be a Galilean.  The cock crowed and Peter had denied Jesus for the third time.  Oh the shame.

The Pharisees took Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to do their dirty work.  Pilate felt himself quite a reasonable man.  He just wanted to know who this Jesus thought he was.  It was Passover and Pilate as representative of Rome was allowed to free a prisoner for the crowd.  Hesitantly at first, we called for Barabbas.  What of Jesus?  “Crucify him!” voices cried.  Pilate would wash his hands and deliver up Jesus to his fate. 

It was time to move on.  The procession was shorter and limited this year due to improvement works in the town centre. Careful stewarding allowed the actors and followers to walk safely from the green. Members of the crowd were encouraged to make their own way to the town.  We walked calmly and sensibly through the narrow walkway to the market place and the main stage between Wetherspoon’s and the Asian food stall. People stood on steps, children squeezed into gaps for a better look and builders in hi viz stood to see what was happening. Some in the crowd were moved to tears.

Jesus had been condemned and now the nails had been hammered home.  The sombre moment was rendered even more heart-breaking as the singers sang so beautifully, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble.” As the story of Jesus’ passion enfolded, we were gripped by its powerful re-telling.  

The reflections conveyed the despair of those who knew and loved their Lord.  What had gone wrong?  Their gentle, compassionate friend had ridden in triumph through Jerusalem just the week before.  Now he was a criminal, to be laid cold in a tomb. The women stood and wept in disbelief. As Mary grieved her son “There in the garden of tears…” and “We may not know, we cannot tell” compounded the agony.  Salome, mother of James and John, headdress pale and blue flowing in the breeze, wondered what her sons would do now – go back to fishing?

Both soldiers poured scorn on this king of the Jews, this rabble rouser.  The younger told us tales of miracles and healing.  I almost thought for a moment that he would show pity but then they gambled and tore Jesus’s cloak in contempt.

Then Jesus was taken down and 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, bewilderment and doubt were replaced by the joy of the Resurrection.  The tomb was empty, the three women the first terrified witnesses. The disciples were slow to understand. Thomas wanted to believe but needed to see, to feel the wounds.  Mary Magdalene 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.  Back at the Methodist Church a warm welcome and hot cross buns awaited us.

The improvement works had thrown up extra challenges but the hard work had been worth it.  This was a great team effort. Congratulations to Sue Curtis for directing and David Candlin 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.

Plus the team effort depending on actors, musicians, technicians, publicity, wardrobe,

 stewards, and crew working together

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

Imperial University for microphones, 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

Grateful thanks for the Churches Together in Ewell for supplying the tent for later Reflections.

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Photographs with thanks to Yan Tan

 

The Producer Ensures all are aware of the last minute changes to the Route to the market due to the never ending Epsom road works!

The crowds gather

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Soon Judas was secretly and furtively consorting with the Priests, lurking in the shadows.  What would it take for him to betray Jesus to the authorities?  They knew his frustration, his fury, his weakness.  The silver dropped into his palm. 

The proceedings towards the market place

by various routes

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Please feedback to sacsac@ntlworld.com

as soon as possible on  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