History of the Passion Play

The churches in Beverley have worked closely together for many years and traditionally have had an open air event on Good Friday in which a cross is carried through the town and a short service is held in Saturday Market.

A vision grew amongst some of us to take this further and stage a Passion Play. After some discussion and support and participation across the denominations, the first play was performed in 2008. The performance was repeated in 2009 and then, in 2010, technical support was given and the loan of costumes and props made to the churches in Bridlington to stage a Passion Play of their own.

The enacting of elements of the Easter Story goes back a long way and has developed in different ways across the world. The most famous passion play is that first performed in Oberammergau in Upper Bavaria in 1634 and now performed every ten years. Typically half the inhabitants of the town get involved and the play is performed over eight hours between mid-May and early October.

There is no distinct evidence of a Passion Play being held in Beverley before the most recent productions. There have however been Mystery Plays in which elements of the Gospel Story were presented in street theatre.

Originally, Richard Bradbury, leader of Beverley Community Church, conceived the vision to hold a Passion Play in the town of Beverley. This vision was shared with the other church leaders in the town and many came on board. During the course of 2007 this vision, to develop the established Good Friday act of witness into a more dramatic depiction of last moments of Jesus’ life, took shape and resulted in the play that was first performed in 2008. The cast was drawn entirely from members of Beverley churches, the majority of whom had no formal dramatic training.

The 2008 production was very well received but certain scenes proved hard to see for some of those watching due to the numbers attending. For 2009 changes were made, notably a substantial set for the Trial scene at the Guildhall. This allowed the characters to be more clearly seen. The performance culminates in the Crucifixion in Saturday Market and necessitates a set of some complexity to allow the scene to be safely depicted. The opening video is taken from the 2009 production.

We were pleased to support the churches in Bridlington in 2010 in their Passion Play with technical support and the loan of costumes and props, including the crucifixion set.

Please have a look at the galleries in the Previous Passions section of the website.