rural pasion play 2013

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undefinedA rural united benefice (group of parishes) north of Congleton has created a passion play from scratch. And a performance of the drama delighted a packed audience at a local school.

The play was designed to give people from Marton, Siddington with Capesthorne, and Eaton with Hulme Walfield parishes the chance to work together on a project to help bind the communities together.

The idea was the brainchild of two parish secretaries, Simon Wain and Sheila Kent.

Simon, a lecturer in theatre technology at Stoke on Trent College, directed a team of his students in building a theatre for the passion play performance at Marton and District C of E School.

And Sheila, a teacher with long experience of directing stage shows involving adults and children, brought together a cast from across the united benenfice. Most of the people had never acted before.

Simon said:  “Marton and Siddington had previously been a joint benefice for many years, but when Eaton and Hulme Walfield joined us a while ago, there was an opportunity to create something to help bring us all together”.

Sheila Kent said:  “Simon and I had worked together very successfully in putting on a concert in a marquee for one of our congregations not long ago. We thought the experience stood us in good stead to do something similar for our churches. We asked the Vicar of the benefice, Ian Arch what he would like, and he plumped for a passion play.”

Using a script written by Betty Blanchet, a former teaching colleague of Sheila’s, casting was given a topical twist, with some of the players taking roles not too dissimilar to their real-life situation. Sheila explained:  “In the nativity we had the three parish treasurers as the Magi bearing gifts, and our ‘Mary’ was cradling her own baby. The baby is actually a girl, but no-one noticed!”

The production team was joined by Sonia Waltho from Eaton with Hulme Walfield. Sonia helped Simon and Sheila with the casting, and took on the vital role of catering, both during an intensive two-week rehearsal period and also at the post-show buffet for an audience of 150.

Simple but striking costumes were provided by Jo Smith with help from Betty Clarkson, both from Siddington congregation.

The play began with two modern girls questioning the significance of the cross. They then looked on as narrators and the cast recounted the story of a shepherd’s son who, as a child, was at the nativity. This character, who grew up under Roman rule and saw Christ crucified, was finally shown the Christian faith by St. Paul, whose jailer he had become. Solo singing items and congregational hymns also featured in the performance.

Vicar Ian said: “In the best tradition of passion plays this brought our communities together, rejoiced in people’s various talents, and united us all around the Gospel story. There was such a buzz on the night that I’m sure we’ll be talking about this for years to come – or at least until the next one!”

Pictured above, a Nativity scene from the play. Below, another big scene