The Hucknall Passion Play is a dynamic, fresh and exciting portrayal of the Passion of Christ and, locally, serves as the ‘sequel’ to The Hucknall Nativity which was staged in St. Mary Magdalene Church in December 2016. The production uses words, music and action to tell the story of the last week of His life on earth in a way that is both true to the Gospels and to the historical context.
The Hucknall Passion was directed by Reverent James Pacey at St Mary Magdalene Church during Holy Week. The event was a huge success. It proved a hugely successful initiative and many people from across the town have commented on it. In a write-up in the local newspaper, Councillor John Wilmott was quoted as saying ‘This was a most professional performance from the performers and what was impressive was the way the church was turned into a theatre for the two evenings with well set out staging, lighting and musical sound effects’. In total, the cast and crew consisted of 27 people, with a further 15 volunteers across the two nights. They played for a rough total of 400 people – made up of faith and non-faith backgrounds.
The actor who played Jesus was an atheist and he emailed his reflections on the play:
As an actor there are all difference types of roles, from your spear carriers to Hamlet and throughout my short time performing I have played mostly in-between these two extremes, mostly supporting parts with a few lead roles, but as a wise man once said there are no small parts only small actors. On receiving the main part of Jesus my first thoughts were less to do with the weight of the role itself or the amount of time in which I had to learn lines or do research but the speed in which I could grow a beard and lose weight. After being reassured that my weight wasn’t an issue and with a beard that apparently grows faster than the hair on my head I was able to start rehearsing with slightly more confidence.
Having not performed for over a year I felt a little nervous going into the first rehearsal but was soon put to ease by the shear likeability and warmth of my fellow cast. A mix of all ages and backgrounds we seemed to gel as a company in a way that I hadn’t had with some people I performed with for three years. The relaxed atmosphere and the will of everybody involved lead to a wonderful working environment In which we worked hard and also had fun. I’m also amazed by the way the younger cast members conducted themselves and consider it a pleasure to have work with such professional actors. The direction that I was given throughout the whole process was beyond an actor’s wildest dreams I was encouraged and reassured were needed told when I needed to hold back and when to push through. I felt like I was growing as an actor through the whole process because of the support I was given by an excellent writer and director a diverse and a talented cast and crew, l will cherish the memories I made during the process and in the performing of the show.
The feedback from not only friends and family that came to see the show but also people that recognised me in the street (of this there wasn’t many as I shaved the beard off straight after the last performance) was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, with not one person having a bad word to say about anything. A massive highlight for me personally was have my two nieces being in the audience to see me perform for the first time (everything I’ve done before being to adult for younger children) and having them tell me how much they enjoyed it. All in all every time the passion is mentioned or talked about I still get enormous surge of pride that I was involved in something as well made and enjoyable as it was and that I helped to make it what it was.
Some stories from the other cast members are also inspiring and reflect their experiences in being part of the play:
‘I found the first few rehearsals very emotional. Especially when I had to give Jesus the cross, even in our normal clothes and no cross in my hands, the guilt and humbling feeling were overwhelming. When performing with an audience present I felt very humble to serve God in this way, hoping and praying that people’s hearts would be touched. Seeing tears in people’s eyes brought me hope of people’s salvation through the cross.’
‘The deeper we got into rehearsals the more I felt involved with the Gospel. It came to life. Playing Mary a mother experiencing her Son’s ministry and following Him to the Cross. Mary was more obedient and accepting than me. I wanted to shout and yell at the disciples. To scream at those who crucified Him. I learnt that Mary. She didn’t her faith was greater than mine. Being part of the Passion has helped to deepen my faith and trust in God.’
‘It was fab to be part of this shared enterprise. Some new friendships were formed and older ones deepened. I played Judas. I was daunted at first but so glad I did it. His character has always intrigued me. In some ways he is no worse than any of the others; no one comes out of this story smelling of roses. There is something of Judas in all of us. We betray Him over and over again. And we are each tempted to force Jesus into a Christ of our own making. As I kissed Jesus in the garden, I shed a tear; real tears. When I left the stage I was unable to speak for several minutes. This was an experience I shall not forget.’