The Modern Revival of Passion Plays

With church attendance at its lowest for a generation, and now a majority of people not identifying with any particular faith[1], why does a story of a man who was brutally killed by a roman occupation in the middle east, two thousand years ago attract public audiences of thousands across the country? 

Here are some reasons Passion Plays are captivating audiences from a range of backgrounds, and why Liverpool Passion is just one part of a much bigger picture of how faith in the public sphere is changing.

1.It Brings People from Different Backgrounds Together

With so much apparent division in today’s society, community theatre has the opportunity to break down boundaries of class, culture, and religion to unite people around the shared joy of performance. 

Previous play groups have talked of the ‘family like’ community which is created during rehearsals  for the show which is eminent within the performance itself. 

The Easter story has the power to unite people from all backgrounds around the message of hope which it carries.

 2. The Power of the Easter Story

You don’t have to be a Christian to agree that the Easter story is a powerful story of betrayal, suffering, forgiveness and redemption. 

Attendees of previous passion plays often describe the emotional moment of Jesus giving up his spirit and asking God to forgive his perpetrators. The Easter story is centuries old but still speaks to our world today. 

Most of us can empathise with Jesus when he is betrayed by a close friend, or perhaps feelings of grief also felt by Mary as her son hung from the cross. 

The resurrection speaks of the hope we all carry to overcome the great challenges of our lives and communities. 

3. Passion Plays Promote a Sense of City Pride

Passion plays are growing in numbers across the country each year, with  each city feeling a sense of pride for their production, and many have made their city’s production unique to themselves. 

For example, Birmingham Passion Play last year gave a new take on the Easter story. With a modern theme, they had riot police instead of roman soldiers and a modern court to try Jesus. The York Mystery Plays of 2018 revived their centuries old tradition of performing passion plays on waggons as they processed through the city. The annual Trafalgar Square Passion of Jesus in London draws crowds of thousands each year, and mayor of London Sadiq Khan said this about the city’s annual Passion Play:

“The Passion of Jesus has captivated Londoners and visitors to the capital for nearly a decade by bringing the story of Easter to life in Trafalgar Square. With thousands gathering on Good Friday to witness the telling of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, The Passion of Jesus is a perfect example of how London is open to people from every religion, background and belief.”

Liverpool is no different to other cities and we are putting our own DNA into this production. 

Liverpool Passion will take place at the heart of our cultural heritage, on William Brown Street, outside St George’s Hall, the World Museum and the Walker Art Gallery. Cast members include our very own Bishop of Liverpool and trained actor Paul Bayes, who will play Barabbas and Dean Sullivan, Scouser and mainstay Brookside actor, who will play Pontius Pilate. Our large community cast will bring Liverpool Passion alive with the vibrance and energy worthy of a major Liverpool event. 

Liverpool Passion has two showings at 12pm and 3:15pm on Good Friday, 10th April, 2020.