Worshippers to tell Easter story on streets of Havant

    29 Feb. 2024

    WORSHIPPERS will tell the Easter story as they perform a Passion Play on the streets of Havant.

    A 30-strong cast will dramatise the story of Jesus’s final days on Earth, including his trial, death and resurrection, on a stage set up in the town centre. They’ve been drawn from churches of all denominations from around Havant and Leigh Park.

    They’ll attract shoppers and passers-by to stop and watch their 30-minute performance, which will be staged three times on March 30 and once on Easter Sunday. It’s designed to help them understand more about why Jesus died and rose again and what difference it can make to their lives.

    It’s the fourth such play that the Havant Passion Play group has staged, after previous performances in Havant Park in 2015, 2017 and 2019. It’s also the fourth play directed by James Burke-Dunsmore, who portrayed Jesus for years in The Life of Christ in Wintershall, near Guildford, and in Trafalgar Square each Good Friday. He has led rehearsals in which cast members are encouraged to think about the emotions felt by their characters as they react to Jesus's words and actions.

    On this occasion, the cast have recruited a new actor to play Jesus - Neil Maddock, who wrote, directed and starred in the Southampton Passion in 2011, which was a musical performed in the centre of the city, and subsequent re-tellings of the Easter story in the city in 2016 and 2018. He was recruited after a full-scale audition process.

    Neil, who led Riverside Family Church in Southampton until 2018, and now works as a professional actor, said: “I was really interested in this, having staged a Passion Play three times myself, and having told the story in a one-man show. There seemed to be a real connection at the audition, and I was really inspired by the vision of getting the Easter story to be told in a public space.

    “Using words from the Bible in our performances is really powerful, as people need to respond to the offer that Jesus is making on their lives. They can choose whether to accept it or not, but part of our role is to tell them about it.

    “Having written and directed Passion Plays before, I’m enjoying just acting on this occasion. And to be directed by someone who has performed as Jesus so many times in Havant, Wintershall and London is a real privilege. And I’m grateful that James allows me to find my own way of portraying Jesus.”

    The performance will start with Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey, events that we celebrate on Palm Sunday. It will include the Last Supper, Jesus' prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest and trial, and his crucifixion. It ends with the risen Jesus greeting his friends.

    Neil Maddock rehearses his scene in the Garden of Gethsemane
    Neil Maddock rehearses his scene in the Garden of Gethsemane
    Actors following the performance in their scripts
    Actors following the performance in their scripts
    Director James Burke-Dunsmore inspiring actors to think about the emotions of their character
    Director James Burke-Dunsmore inspiring actors to think about the emotions of their character
    Mary, the mother of Jesus
    Mary, the mother of Jesus

    Among the cast is the Rev Jonathan Jeffery, vicar of Leigh Park and Warren Park, as well as his wife Carolyn, and children Phoebe and Jem. He said: “The story is told in a way that we hope will grab our audience and draw them in. This is important as we’re performing it as street theatre in Havant’s West Street – on a makeshift stage between the Meridian Centre and St Faith’s Church. There is a space for an audience, but I hope that Easter shoppers will stop and witness the message of our 30-minute play.”

    The Havant Passion will be performed in West Street, Havant on Saturday 30th March at 11am, 12:30pm and 2pm with a further performance on Easter Day (31st March) at 3:30pm. It is free and will go ahead whatever the weather. Details are here.

    Find out more on havantpassionplay.org.uk.

    Upcoming Events

    More events