Easter is just the best weekend of the year, I think. A four day weekend is a good thing however you look at it, and the fact it is virtually compulsory to eat chocolate and hot cross buns makes it just too fabulous for words. Naturally, it isn’t just about that: for Christians it is by far the biggest religious festival of the year. The Bible Society and 70 actors put on a Passion play to remind us all of the real meaning of Easter: chuff me, it was an astonishing thing.
As always, I got there around five minutes late, just in time to see Jesus throw the traders out of the temple.
A huge amount of effort had gone in to making sure there wasn’t a bad seat in the house: there were massive screens and accompanying PA system to make sure not a word was missed. Like our visit to the Scoop last year, the outside performance lent a great deal to the proceedings. We formed part of the crowd, and it meant that the whole thing felt more… biblical.
We actually had to pay attention. We stood still in the blazing heat, and we watched as this ancient tale which has shaped so much of our culture and the way we live our lives. I kept having flashbacks to a thousand RE lessons, but this telling of the story was more potent than any of them. A bit like going to see the film Titanic, we all know the way this was going to end: the whole performance was played in the shadow of three poles, which were plainly going to turn into crosses.
This Passion was more visceral, more disturbing than any of those RE classes. Even though the actor playing Jesus was not actually being lashed, he emerged bleeding like something from a horror film. We all winced as the crown went on his head, and as he dragged his cross as far as he could, before a member of the audience was pulled out to carry it for him.
Somehow or other, the words lost the formality they have in the Bible, and carried more power than I’m used to. The crucifixion was a horrifying thing: I wouldn’t even post the photos I took, so gruesome were they. The crowd stood virtually in silence throughout. And as Jesus rose again, they cheered – eventually, he walked through the main collonade in front of the national gallery, and turning right he disappeared from view, next to the Olympic Countdown Clock.
Now. I am not, myself, a Christian anymore (although I’m married to a very good one). I thought this Passion Play was powerful, moving and incredibly well done. It is not possible to take the mick out of this tale, nor would I want to. If I were religious it would have meant a great deal to me, and even though I’m not, it made me wish there were equivalent public tellings of the other major religions tales like this. Younger people and children are brought up with much greater understanding of other people’s beliefs than my generation were; I think it would be good to celebrate the other religions in a more public way than the other faith celebrations in Trafalgar Square. Any road up, this was an exceptional, thoughtful thing, and I wish more folk could have seen in.