The Hucknall Passion Play is a dynamic, fresh and exciting portrayal of the Passion of Christ. Locally, it 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. This is in a way that is both true to the Gospels and to the historical context.
Reverend James Pacey directed the Hucknall Passion Play 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. A write-up in the local newspaper, quoted Councillor John Wilmott as saying, “This was a most professional performance from the performers. I was impressed by how the organisers turned the church 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 different types of roles – from your spear carriers to Hamlet. Throughout my short time performing I have played mostly in-between these two extremes. I’ve mostly had 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. And more about the speed in which I could grow a beard and lose weight. I started rehearsing with slightly more confidence, after some reassurance that my weight wasn’t an issue. And that apparently, a beard grows faster than the hair on my head .
Having not performed for over a year I felt a little nervous going into the first rehearsal. The sheer likeability and warmth of my fellow cast soon put me at ease. As a mix of all ages and backgrounds we seemed to really gel as a company. This was 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 led to a wonderful working environment. We worked hard and also had fun.
I’m also amazed by the way the younger cast members conducted themselves. I considered it a pleasure to work with such professional actors. The direction that I received throughout the whole process was beyond an actor’s wildest dreams. It encouraged me and reassured me where needed. And I knew when I needed to hold back and when to push through. I felt like I was growing as an actor through the whole process. This was thanks to the support I received from an excellent writer and director. Whilst being part of 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. Every time people mention the Hucknall Passion or talked about it, I feel an enormous surge of pride. I’m so pleased to be involved in something so enjoyable and well made. 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 Hucknall Passion 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. I hoped and prayed that the play would touch people’s hearts. 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. People formed new friendships and deepened older ones. 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.’