Hundreds watch Passion Play on streets of Havant

Hundreds of shoppers and passers-by watched the Easter story re-enacted on the streets of Havant.
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Actors from churches around Havant, Leigh Park and ths surrounding areas told the story of Jesus's final week on Earth, including his arrest, trial, death and resurrection on a stage erected outside St Faith's Church. It was the latest production by the ecumenical Havant Passion Play group, who staged the 30-minute play three times on Saturday and once on Easter Sunday.

Shoppers in Havant's West Street were surprised to see a donkey being led along the road, with cast members in full costume threading their way between market stalls. They re-enacted Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem ahead of arriving at their temporary stage.

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The action then continued on stage with the story of Blind Bartimeus, the overturning of the tables in the Temple, and the plotting by the Pharisees and religious leaders to have Jesus killed.

Neil Maddock acts as Jesus being crucified in Havant Passion PlayNeil Maddock acts as Jesus being crucified in Havant Passion Play
Neil Maddock acts as Jesus being crucified in Havant Passion Play

The actors stretched out a sheet to depict Jesus and the disciples eating the Last Supper, and encouraged the crowd to play the part of the mob baying for Roman ruler Pilate to crucify Jesus rather than Barabbas.

There was absolute silence as Jesus spoke his final words from the cross, and as his mother Mary cradled his body and recited the Magnificat - the song Mary sings in the gospel of Luke before Jesus's birth. The play ended with the disciples' astonishment at Jesus's resurrection, and with Jesus's command to go and seek new disciples,

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.

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On this occasion, the cast 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.

For many in the cast, the chance to portray those who were at the centre of the story of Holy Week and Easter was an opportunity to delve deeper into the Bible stories they may have heard many times.

Christina Jacobs travelled from Plymouth for weekly rehearsals and for the performances, having taken part in the 2019 Havant Passion Play. She played Mary, the mother of Jesus. "I'm really fond of Havant and this audience have given us a great reception," she said. "And I'm not surprised that people were silent for those important parts of the story - that does happen when you tell this particular story."

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