Performing Jesus

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What is it like performing Jesus in an Easter Passion Play? It is one of the most intense roles and requires a highly experienced or professional actor.

Simon Carter – writer, performer, podcaster – played Jesus in the Nottingham Passion at St Mary’s in the Lace Market last year. You can see his blog here, with extracts below.


Where to start performing Jesus?

I don’t know how to process it properly. This is unlike anything I’ve ever done. I come away from rehearsals on a Tuesday and a Thursday feeling energised and exhausted, euphoric and numb, bewildered and clear-headed, filled up and empty. It feels like I don’t know what I’m doing but that I’ve never felt more ready. I’m a walking paradox.

The best I can manage right now when I speak about any of this to anyone out loud is: ‘I’ve been cast as a certain gentleman from Nazareth.’

And people go: ‘Oh. Jesus?

And I go: ‘Er. Yes.’

And people go: ‘That’s cool. How’s it going?’

And I go: ‘It’s complicated.’



How to proceed rehearsing the Easter story?

According to Simon, start with ‘just his words on their own’.

“Take out the theology, the doctrine, the dogma, the rules, the ignorance, the in-fighting. Strip it all back. It really isn’t Jesus who’s the problem. It’s people, and institutions, it’s us. It’s what we’ve made of him.

At they’re purest, at they’re rawest, his are some of the most emotionally intelligent, superhumanly insightful words ever uttered. Reading about him, it’s like he heard people at a different frequency, saw people on a different wavelength. We see difference, and division. He sees unity, and harmony. He sees all the colours of the spectrum in super high definition. We can’t see the spectrum for looking at the grey clouds obscuring our view. Sadly, some of us seem to be content with those grey clouds being there, unwilling to look underneath. For fear of what we may find, for fear of having to make a change.”


Rehearsing with Jesus in the Easter story

“I meant it when I wrote previously that being given the chance to portray Jesus was among the privileges of my life. It’s not been an easy experience so far, but with three weeks of rehearsals under my belt it feels like I’m finding my feet now. Fear and uncertainty have now given way to some self-confidence, though I worry that the Jesus voice which appears to be coming out of me sounds a bit like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator.

As rehearsals move into the church proper, and I stand there pretending to be him (not Russell Crowe, Jesus), and I try to articulate the utterly beautiful words he said (again not Russell Crowe, Jesus), I can’t believe it’s me who’s doing this. It doesn’t feel real yet. Maybe that’s why I struggle to say the words: ‘I’ve been cast as Jesus.’”

We will have many other stories about what it is like performing Jesus in Easter Passion Plays. And also stories about performing many other roles in the Passion story. Check out our blog to see more stories about taking part and rehearsing roles such as Jesus, his disciples, or members of the crowd.

If you ever wonder what it is like ‘behind the scenes’ of a Passion Play, you can find out here!