Ground-breaking Passion Plays this Easter

This Holy Week as people across Scotland celebrate Easter with everything from children's egg hunts to special church services, churches in Hamilton and Edinburgh will be taking the Easter message into their community with ground-breaking productions of the Passion Play.

The play in Hamilton, which will be performed in public for the first time, begins this week with a Palm Sunday procession that is expected to attract hundreds of people.

Actor Duncan Rennie as Jesus.
Actor Duncan Rennie as Jesus

A Community performance

A cast of more than 30 local people have been brought together, alongside professional actors in the roles of Judas and Jesus, to create an ambitious performance portraying the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Each year the churches of Hamilton take turns to host events to mark Holy Week. This year it's up to Hamilton Old Kirk, where a husband and wife team have lead the project.

Host minister Rev Ross Blackman is "incredibly excited" about the production, and emphasises what he hopes will be a sensory performance.

Mary in the Passion Play.
Mary in the Passion Play

He says:

"The inspiration behind this is my desire to use more of the performing arts in worship and in Christian education.

"Already the cast and observers of the rehearsals are finding new depths to their faith, through these portrayals. Being part of this has had an impact on all those involved."

His wife Liz Blackman, a trained actress with a background in theatre and TV, is the producer and director of the Passion Play.

Palm Sunday

Starting on Palm Sunday, 9 April, at 12:30pm they will depict Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Quarry Street. Then each night of the week at 7:30 pm in Hamilton Old Parish Church they will act out the Easter story, from the cleansing of the Temple and the Last Supper to the crucifixion.

Hamilton Passion Play Roman Soldiers
Cast members as Roman soldiers

On Thursday the scene of the Last Supper will include members of the local clergy as disciples, who will distribute the communion elements at the end of the service.

The Friday service will conclude with Jesus on the cross outside the front of the church before being "buried" in the church for the weekend.

The event will culminate on Easter Sunday, 16 April, with a dawn service of resurrection at 6:30 am followed by scenes from the Resurrection at 10:30am.

The meaning of Easter

Rev Joanne Hood, minister at St John's Church in Hamilton, is also taking part in the production, which hundreds are expected to attend. She said:

"We wanted to do something to help everyone understand the meaning of Easter, of Christ's resurrection and the joy it gives us. That's why we will be staging the Passion Play both in the streets of Hamilton and in our churches next week. It's a huge thing for us with all the churches coming together across denominations to put on a really special event for the community."

Cast members dressed as market sellers.
Members of the cast as market sellers

Passion plays became popular in the 14th century and are performed around the world every Easter, the most famous of which is staged in Oberammergau every ten years and features a cast of over two thousand.

Edinburgh play

The production has been supported by Suzanne Loftus, who is the producer of the Edinburgh Easter Play taking place in Princes Street Gardens on Easter Saturday at 2pm.

This is one of the biggest community productions in Scotland. A cast of more than 40 people regularly attracts audiences of 2,000 or more to see the Easter Story presented. Various kinds of plays have been done over the years, this year is a large-scale traditional Passion Play for the first time in six years.

There will be a twist on the story - the narrator will be a woman, Mary the mother of Jesus, a fresh new female angle on a traditional story traditionally dominated by men.