A beautiful day this year for our annual Good Friday pageant The Way of the Cross (or the Martyr Worthy Passion) – in Itchen Valley Parish sandwiched between two days of heavy rain.
After a prayer from our Rector Revd Amanda Denniss, our Narrator Gerry Stacey (resplendent in red fez) started to talk us through the events of the Passion.
We even managed to avoid a clash with the Biffa recycling truck which was scheduled to pay the lane a visit at the same time. Apart from the anachronism of a garbage truck with three operatives in hi vis overalls clashing with our Roman soldiers and disciples dressed in smocks, there would have been little room for aerobic recycling collection, given that over 150 of us were squeezed into Church Lane.
As always, we start at the bottom of the lane with the Last Supper where our new Jesus Rollo Sutcliffe managed a table of disciples speaking with an authority which belied his years.
The bread was distributed to the large crowd before we were all led off up the lane singing ‘Praise the Lord ye Heavens adore him’ to the Gethsemane scene in Church Cottage garden where Roman soldiers of various builds arrest Jesus to the evident shock of the disciples…
From there singing ‘Lead us Heavenly Father lead us’ to the scene before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin – Caiaphas looking really quite like a Prohibition gangster boss of the 1920s with his two henchmen priests wearing cassocks designed, perhaps, for others?
And then we made our way singing ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’ to the trial before Pilate…..
It is often at this stage that the melodrama becomes rather more poignant as the crowd – all of us – calls out ‘crucify, crucify’ and Barrabbas is released instead of the Lord of Life…
The Roman soldiers flog and spit on Jesus and force a crown of thorns on His head. Meanwhile, Peter denies Jesus thrice before a very fetching recording of a cock crowing provided by our sound effects specialist Vernon Tottle is heard. And then the journey to the crucifixion.
As The crowd lines the path up to the church, Jesus falters in the road and Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry His cross.
At the top of the road by the turning to the church, weeping women of Jerusalem (all rather elegantly be-shawled) accompanied Jesus through to Golgotha – or in this case the chancel step of St Swithun’s.
And thence to the Place of the Skull in St Swithun’s – now crammed full with a capacity crowd and with the teenagers sitting on the window ledges!
Then another hymn – ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’. The Roman soldiers bang the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet (or at least that is really what it sounds like) and then play dice for his clothes. The disciples recover the body from Pilate and bury Jesus under a sheet by the communion table.
A final hymn ‘O Sacred Head Surrounded’ and we all file out silently to the Village Hall for Hot Cross buns and coffee – feeling, well…..discordant and incomplete.
But Easter is around the corner….
Thank you so much to so many people for this excellent event in the Parish calendar. Thank you to Sonia Cragg who marvellously directed us with two short rehearsals immediately before the event; to Sophie Jackson who incredibly produced six additional smocks for the disciples – Sewing Central was working pretty late last night I think – thank you so much! To the Mezgers bringing the Arab headdresses back from their trip earlier in the year to the Holy Land; to our narrator Gerry Stacey; to all the actors who so kindly were willing to do this even though so many of them said ‘I can’t act’; to David Truslove playing the organ; to the wonderful team led by Liz Platt: Gilly Greenwood, Lucinda Ffennell, Laura Hanley, Georgie and Jessica Ffennell and Jessica Cragg who prepared and served the hot cross buns and coffee in the Martyr Worthy village hall; to Simon Ffennell who managed all the props and organised all the parking and liaised with the owners of all the properties over which we rampaged – and thanks to those owners as well!
The thing which is so wonderful about this event, is not the quality of the acting (sorry actors -although you are fantastic) but the fact that we are all acting out the most important drama of history together. You are all amazing and it really is a complete delight working with you all!
Have a wonderful Easter!
The Cast List was as follows: Thank you so much to all of you for giving the time: