There is a green hill not so far away, where dramatic scenes are planned for Good Friday,
Village bands together for play about the crucifixion of Jesus
A crowd gathers; the holiday chatter turns to excitement, celebration, shouting, condemnation; a man stumbles through the streets carrying a heavy wooden cross. In the Broadland village of Reedham scenes which first played out almost 2,000 years ago, and more than 2,000 miles away, will be re-enacted on Friday, April 14.
The Easter Passion play will be performed as part of a two-mile pilgrimage walk through the village, beginning as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, or the village primary school, and ending with the Crucifixion, staged in the farmyard at Ferry Farm. The villagers will join in the joy of Palm Sunday as Jesus passes through the Golden Gate of Jerusalem and into the school playground, to shouts, fanfares and song. Then the mood will darken with the arrest in the garden of Gethsemane (or a garden in The Hills, Reedham), and the trial of Christ, in driveways on Station Road.
More than 100 people have been involved in creating the drama over the past year, with a cast of 50, plus musicians, costume makers, set builders and more, from Reedham and the other seven parishes of the Acle and Yare to Bure benefice.
“We think it’s important to be an inclusive group and church goers and people of any faith or none have always been equally welcome,” says Diana Gilder, who is organising the event alongside associate priest Lorna Allies, who also lives in the village.
The script was written by Peter Allies, and the performance is directed by Simon Ash. Another villager, former Norwich Cathedral organist and choir master Michael Nicholas, is musical director. Characters include Jesus himself, played by John Mules, who recently retired from the Royal Navy, plus disciples, soldiers, Caiaphas and the high priests, Pilate, a serving maid, two thieves, Jesus’ mother Mary, and crowd scenes with children from the village primary school.
The action is spread over five sites through the village,
and for part of the route a specially-made cross will be carried, first by Jesus, and then by Simon of Cyrene.
The drama ends with the Crucifixion scene at around 3pm on Good Friday – the time Christians across the country will be commemorating the death of Christ.
“It has been a challenge in many ways,” says Diana. “The logistics of moving large numbers of people around public roads, the uncertainty of audience numbers, planning for the vagaries of the British weather, the recruitment and organisation of workforces and performers, the securing of sites to perform in, one rehearsal during a power cut, not to mention the health and safety issues involved in ‘crucifying’ someone!”
The one-off performance is the culmination of a year’s work, bringing more than 100 people together for a journey of friendship, faith and witness.
There are no plans to make it a regular event or turn Reedham into the Oberammergau of East Anglia, says Diana, but she adds: “Whatever happens on the day, Lorna and I do not doubt that this act of Christian witness, that we envisaged so many months ago, is absolutely worth doing. We hope to produce a memorable and moving event.”
Jesus, played by John Mules, carries the cross in the Reedham Passion Play
Rehearsals for the Reedham Passion Play Jesus and the Roman soldiers