Despite the near-Artic conditions, the first Horstead Passion play took place yesterday (Sunday 18) in the Tithe Barn next to the Horstead Centre. True to the tradition of Passion Plays, this performance had a large cast and crew, with ages across seven decades and performers drawn from a wide variety of local groups.
Cawston Church’s Worship group provided most of the musical accompaniment from the minstrels’ gallery, which provided an ethereal atmosphere. The Pop Corn & Grace radio team did a special broadcast and the Angel Gabriel (played by Bishop Jonathan) narrated the tale from the Garden of Eden to the tomb through speech and song.
Although much of the early scenes took place on the stage, chairs were moved back to enable the audience to participate 'in the round' with the procession to the cross. The crucifixion was staged up in the gallery with the onlookers gazing upwards. The most moving scene was when Jesus’ body was carried back down to his mother, Mary.
The final act involved all in a procession outside into the grounds of the Horstead Centre where the climbing wall equipment became the tomb. All braved the sub-zero temperatures and warmed-up afterwards with hot-cross buns and hot drinks.
It was a real community event, drawing people together from the Aylsham and District Team Benefice, All Saints’ Church, children from St Michael’s, Aylsham, Buxton and Hainford schools, Pop Corn & Grace radio team, North Walsham Methodist Church, Diocese of Norwich, The Horstead Centre and Tithe Barn.
Stage Manager, Linda Southgate got involved because “I really believed in the project!” An Authorised Worship Assistant and professional actor, Linda and her husband, who recorded the special effects, particularly enjoyed seeing such a wide age-range of people joining in from across the area.
Local parent, Lisa Martin said that she’d never done anything like this before but had really enjoyed taking part. “My son had just been taking off his Joseph costume after his school nativity play and we were asked if we’d like to get involved with this. It seemed fitting, somehow, to carry the story on. It was great to take part with my son. For me, the most powerful moment was when I was comforting Mary as she held Jesus’ body in her arms. It made it so real.”
Producer Kandi Kammoun said: "The vision for The Passion was originally for it to be performed outside in the grounds of The Horstead Centre. However, when the risk assessments on the staging ruled this out and we brought it indoors, the vision had to be revised (of course, in light of the March weather we have had - thank goodness we did!).
“I cannot commend the cast and crew highly enough. They embraced all the changes, as we adapted both the set and the scenes, and everyone did it all with a smile. We have had much laughter during the rehearsals as stage characters were developed and off-stage friendships were forged. I am so pleased and proud of our all-age cast of 72.
“It was as I hoped: powerful and thought-provoking – taking both the audience and those participating on a journey.”