The Way of the Cross – The Martyr Worthy Passion 2017

The anxieties of producing the Way of the Cross for Itchen Valley Parish seem pretty all encompassing at the time: – how on earth will we cast 32 people (most of whom probably need to be men) for an event happening on one of the most popular holiday days of the year….will it rain…will Judas actually hang himself this year (given how convincing the noose he uses as a prop)…..will the Biffa dust truck come down the road just as we are marching Jesus with the Cross up Church Hill towards St Swithun’s….again, will it rain…?

But when the event itself starts, after being ‘blocked’ in rehearsal by the gentle touch of Sonia Cragg our director, the age-old story takes over; a story which still continues to move us, still continues to shock, and, in some cases, reduce us to tears….and the anxieties of the previous days evaporate, as with so many other trivial first world and 21st century problems….

But before we get to start the actual event there are two rehearsal walk-throughs, one on Thursday night (sorry for blocking the lane to the ladies and gentlemen of the Village Whist Drive) at which there is, to be honest, hilarity, as a lot of grown up people who don’t know each other very well, get together to dress up for the least practised drama in the Valley of the year.

But nevertheless no real low points this year – in rehearsal the cockerel would just not stay under control and kept on crowing at awkward moments (although we did try to smother it) – and before you are sympathetic (or not) to the person looking after the animals…it was a recording on an ipad – so ‘no animals were harmed in this production’.

Soon rehearsals were over and as the Stacey daughters handed out the service sheets we soon realised that we were being joined by a lot of people!  Certainly over 100 possibly 150 more likely 130 plus the cast!  Some come from far and wide to this annual event.  It does make me wonder what we would do if all our Valley families decided to holiday in the UK one Easter….

A high point in the actual performance this year was was the striking with a sword of the servant’s ear in Gethsemane, which was performed with a theatrical flourish by Neil Robertson.

It’s always key to have a strong Jesus and thank you so much to Iain Macleod with his stentorian tones for taking on this responsibility so competently; to Kevin Rosewell, Richard Hunt, Dominic Claridge, Neil Robertson, Quentin Davies and George Turner for acting as the disciples;  to Will Parry for acting as Judas; to Will Turner, Toby Stubbs, Jonathan Cragg, William Stubbs, Nick Waring, Edward Mortimer, Henry Turner all acting as Roman soldiers; to James and Nikki Young as Pilate and Pilate’s Wife, Claudia;

to Christopher Burness as Caiaphas, to Frits Janssen and Tim Clapp as Priests, to Tony Gaster as Barabbas, to Katherine Impey and Naomi Ellis as Servants, to Lavinia Owen, Annabel Mortimer, Araminter Stubbs and the two young Warings as Women of Jerusalem, to Brigid Brett as Mary Mother of Jesus, to James Woosnam as Simon of Cyrene and Andrew Impey as Joseph of Arimathea.

Thank you also to the Rector for the opening prayer and for Gerry’s clear narration holding it all together and for Robert Sutcliffe’s organ playing and leading us in the hymns, like the Pied Piper, playing a recorder as we walked up the hill.

Thank you also to those in the wings: to Simon Ffennell as traffic and health and safety officer and handling the props (none of it would happen without you Simon), to Liz Platt and her wonderful team of tea coffee and hot cross bun providers (just delicious): Lucinda Ffennell, Gilly Greenwood, Sally Cannons, Camilla Mortimer, Jessica Ffennell and Georgie Ffennell.  A big thanks to Sonia Cragg for her excellent direction.

Thank you all for taking part and attending at this wonderful event and thank you for following our directions for the crowd.  As I think everyone realised, silence is the only way to leave Jesus in the tomb….

Alex Pease

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