The unwitting walking into Lanark’s Greyfriars Church on Holy Wednesday might have been forgiven for thinking the Royal Burgh had been blessed by the Second Coming.
However, while not quite THAT history-making, the scene in the kirk was a unique - and uniquely moving - one as the Hamilton Passion Play came to Lanark for the first time.
The Play has been bringing the Easter story to life in the heart of Hamilton for the past couple of years and this year the re-enactment of the most dramatic story of all time toured five Lanarkshire towns, including Lanark.
Audiences have responded well to previous Passion Plays, with feedback to 2018’s “Resurrection!” including “good to hear this story in local accents. It made the story come alive seeing it acted” and “breaks through the familiarity of the Passion story and makes one feel part of it in a very real and moving way”.
The cast comes together from the Lanarkshire community to portray a range of biblical characters, led this year by two professional actors; Nicholas Elliott in the lead role of Jesus and Chris McLeish as John.
Passion Plays are a tradition dating back hundreds of years and were historically used as a way to tell the Easter story to whole towns and villages, in a time when many people couldn’t read.
In modern times, a Passion Play provides a creative and immediate way for people to re-engage with familiar stories, enjoy the dramatic elements and experience the story more deeply.
Bryan Kerr, Minister at Lanark Greyfriars Parish Church, said:”At the heart of our Christian message at Easter is the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This is central to who we are as a church.”
This year’s script is a very different approach to a Passion Play. “The People’s Passion” was devised by Riding Lights Theatre Company, based in York, who have a long history of supporting churches to use drama in worship.
Acompany spokesman said: “This Passion Play is not simply an audience watching a performance. There are some responsive moments in the text where the congregation join together as one voice, just as they did in the 1st century.”