Passion Play performed with passion

It’s a long way from Oberammergau in Bavaria to St Columba’s Church, Adamstown.

Oberammergau is the site of the famed Passion Play, first staged in 1634 and now performed every ten years (next in 2020). St Columba’s in the Parish of All Saints, Blackbutt South, is the home of amateur performers, “Bright Sparks”, under the capable and committed direction of Christine Williams.

Every second year (since 1992), Bright Sparks has presented a dramatisation of the Passion of Jesus, based on the gospel of Passion (Palm) Sunday. St Columba’s Church lends itself well to ‘roving players’ – or is it more a case of direction that takes account of the space available?

From the ominous feeling of the Garden of Gethsemane, to the turmoil of the ‘trial’ of Jesus and his sentencing to death, from the laboured carrying of the cross and falls of Jesus that reverberate through the church to the triumphant joy of the resurrection – there was no lack of passion and the experience was genuinely moving.

The difficulty in such a production is that it inevitably occurs in a condensed time frame, preceding the Church’s liturgical celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Arguably the most well-known productions, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, eschew the Resurrection. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, for all its literary licence, portrayed the Resurrection, and so does the Bright Sparks ensemble.

There is a feeling of authentic joy when bright lights and white garments replace dim solemnity and a convincingly ‘blood-stained’ robe worn by Jesus (a remarkably focused Simon Heaney) before he is ‘nailed’ to the cross.

Some forty cast members range from the very young to the more mature members of the community, and Christine Williams says that several have been involved for the duration. Costuming, lighting, make-up and music provide opportunities for other parishioners to contribute.

Marshall McLuhan wrote “The medium is the message.” Bright Sparks’ takes that seriously, since it undertakes, every two years, to act out a message of forgiveness, hope and resurrection.

God willing, the Passion Play will be performed again in 2018!

Setting the scene…

Complementing the staging of the Passion Play was an exhibition of artworks created by students of St Pius X High School, Adamstown. The initiative, and the theme linking the works, “What does Catholic spirituality mean to you?”, were the brainchild of recent Bishop’s Award winner and All Saints parishioner, Lachlan Byrnes, and parish priest, Fr Terry Horne.

Art/Religious Studies teacher and head judge, Mrs Felicity Doyle, spoke at Mass at St Philip’s, Kotara, where the works were first displayed. She acknowledged the link between relationships and spirituality and the high level of creativity evident in the submissions.

Principal of St Pius X, Robert Emery, said, “My congratulations go to all entrants in the Art Competition. There was a fabulous array of creativity, expression and talent on display. First Place was won by Isabella Dunn. Highly Commended were Ethan Schafer, Mea Walsh and Abby Newcombe. Many others will receive Principal’s Awards in recognition of a great effort.”

A selection of artworks is being displayed in the churches of All Saints, Blackbutt South and can be viewed in the gallery below.

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.

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