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Three white crosses on a white hill against a red background. Words in white and black say 'Carlisle Passion Play: Easter 2019.'

A truly memorable performance, beautifully crafted, sensitively acted and directed, with music. Loved it!!!!!!!!!!!

Staging the Carlisle Passion Play

Carlisle Passion Play was performed in the City Centre of Carlisle, at 11.00am and 2.00pm on Saturday April 13, 2019. Local churches in and around Carlisle supported it. Classic Theatre Cumbria produced it. Each performance lasted about one hour 20 minutes. John Davies was the play’s Artistic Director, also writing and directing it. During the two performances, an audience of about 1,000 people watched the Easter story unfold around and amongst them. This modern, contemporary interpretation showed that this is a story not just of what happened two thousand years ago, but is relevant to today’s society.

The Play was produced by Classic Theatre Cumbria and supported by the Diocese of Carlisle. It included the support of the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, Churches Together, the Salvation Army, and the free churches in Carlisle. This exciting production was a fabulous display for the whole family.

History and Production

It was real street theatre in the tradition of its English roots in the Medieval Mystery Plays. The Director even included his re-working of the earliest ‘play’ in British Theatre, the Quem Quaeritis? trope. This depicted the visitation of the three Marys to the empty tomb. The play began and ended very movingly with this scene.

The whole of the City Centre and historical Town Hall Square became the play’s backdrop, also using a specially constructed stage. The technical audio aspects of our production were of interest to the industry and manufacturers because it is, apparently, rare to use so many channels (60), two mixing desks and talk back (between Director and Narrator, who also acted as Prompt and Floor Manager). We used posters distributed around the North of Cumbria, word-of-mouth, Facebook and other social media to attract participants and promote the Play. This continues in our follow up, outreach activities and plans for the future.

The organisers promoted the Saturday performances amongst the disabled community, including those with learning difficulties. They made it accessible to those deploying walkers and wheelchairs. Stewards assisted to good positions.

Press Coverage and Reception of the Carlisle Passion

ITV Local News, BBC Local Radio, the local newspapers, the City’s Monthly magazine and the Diocesan Newspaper ‘The way’ followed the production from casting to performance and review. A local Vicar, an amateur photographer, documented the rehearsals through photography. Other local and national media and religious outlets promoted the play and subsequently reported on it. Our IT Manager has compiled a video recording of one of the performances.

Many Church Palm Sunday Services, including Carlisle Cathedral, began with giving thanks for the Passion Play. As well as all those involved, all those who attended and the contribution to the life of the City.

I was at the Passion Play this afternoon and thought it was brilliant and there were very complimentary comments from everyone around me.  Quite a challenge, putting a play on there and you rose to it wonderfully.  Well done! And what a good turn-out.  So glad the sun shone for you

I found the whole experience exciting, emotional and spiritually uplifting and compelling – it’s created a wonderful memory of working with a great group of people and a great enterprise that will endure for a long time.

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