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Tisbury Passion Play celebrates 21 years

By fdart  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

Melanie Avon director of Tisbury's 21st Passion Play

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A PLAY telling the story of the first Good Friday celebrates its 21st birthday next month.

The Tisbury Passion Play, written by Barrie Shore, was first performed on 9th April 1993 when more than 300 people turned out in cold, damp weather to watch the Easter story unfold around the village.

Barrie remembers villager Kathleen Mould telling her she had prayed for dry weather.

“Five minutes before we started, it stopped raining and five minutes after we finished, it started again,” Barrie recalls.

This year the play is directed by Melanie Avon, a professional actress who moved with her actor husband to Tisbury in 2002.

“We have been involved ever since,” she said.

“I have played a member of the crowd and the wife of (chief priest) Caiaphas, and I have directed the children in the last three performances.

“I have always felt moved by the play – these people were real people and must have gone through so many emotions.”

The play will begin with a procession from the High Street to Churchill Estate.

Then it moves to the Victoria Hall for Jesus’s first address, the Methodist Church for the temple scene, Tisbury Dental Centre - Caiaphas’s Palace, the war memorial for the Last Supper and trial, and St John’s Churchyard for the crucifixion.

Melanie is delighted that St John’s Primary School pupils are more involved this year and that Tisbury Arts Group continues to provide a core of actors.

Shaftesbury School students Christian Allsopp and Jacob Hulland are taking the roles of Jesus and Judas. Dan Evans plays Pilate and Quentin Edwards Peter.

It was in 1992 that Barrie, a professional actress who has written scripts for EastEnders, TV drama documentaries and educational programmes for the BBC World Service, was asked by the then Rector of Tisbury, the Reverend Jonathan Meyrick to write a street version of a passion play.

“It was a tremendous honour to be asked,” she said.

“At the time I had started writing soap opera for the telly and when I looked later at the script I had written, it was like an episode of EastEnders!

“I was determined to make it accessible to a modern contemporary audience. I didn’t want it to be stuffy.”

Mr Meyrick, who drummed up people to make costumes and props, played Jesus and Richard Wren, who has been involved with the play ever since, took the role of Peter.

“I was a professional and thought it would be done in an amateur way,” said Barrie.

“I could not have been more wrong - I was profoundly moved.”

Jo Broad directed the play for many years and then Richard Wren took it on.

“Richard and Tisbury Christian Council have kept it going all this time,” said Barrie.

“I have always had them to keep me on the straight and narrow re the scripture. It is an act of worship after all.”

This year Barrie has developed the roles of Mary, Judas and some of the other disciples, and updated the contemporary references - previous versions have included the Occupy London protest and the banking crisis.

“Different people will draw different things from it, but it is for everyone,” said Barrie.

• The play begins at the library in the High Street at 10.15am on Good Friday, 18th April.

It’s not too late to take part in the crowd scenes. Rehearsals take place on Monday evenings at the Methodist Church and more information is available on the Tisbury Passion Play Facebook page.

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