Parish Passion Play:

by and Colin Humphreys (foreword)

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Book Details

Format: Paperback (106 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-908381-23-1

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Bring the Passion narrative alive with this Parish Passion Play suitable for production by anyone with little or no acting experience, and requiring minimal rehearsal and no props.

“Production Multipacks” available at substantial discounts!

  • Multipack 1: 10 x paperbacks £60
  • Multipack 2: 20 x paperbacks, 1 x hardback £100
  • Multipack 3: 30 x paperbacks, 10 x hardbacks £200
  • Multipack 4: 15 x hardbacks £135

Ideally suited for use in a parish church, the play is based upon the chronology presented by Professor Colin J. Humphreys in his book “The Mystery of the Last Supper” (CUP, 2011).

The narrative is interspersed with (optional) sung passages.

“This is a bold, imaginative and fresh interpretation of the Gospels. It is a pleasure for me to recommend strongly this highly original and ground-breaking Passion Play.” - Professor Sir Colin J. Humphreys, CBE, author of “The Mystery of the Last Supper”


This Parish Passion Play is written primarily for people who can read well but have never acted. My hope is that it will be read during Holy Week. After casting, solid preparation at home should precede one full rehearsal.

There are, depending on how you define the term, some eight major roles on each “side” where doubling up is not desirable. The readers are arranged with a church chancel in mind but it could be read in any square space. Movement is kept to an absolute minimum. With exceptions which are necessary to the plot, and clearly indicated, the followers of Jeshua are to the south, the Jewish and Roman officials to the north, the crowd/Sanhedrin is to the west. Judas moves between the south and the north, and Peter and John make a foray into the north. Jesus begins with his followers in the south, moves to the north after his arrest and carries his cross from the west to the east. Readers respectively face north-west and south-west except where there is a direction to face directly west when the Sanhedrin or crowd is being addressed.

At the beginning of each scene, readers are listed in order of speaking. All readers should stand throughout the scene except characters that are directed to stand or sit part way through, signifying sudden arrival or, conversely, signifying sudden departure.

When the term “severally” is used in directions it means that the speakers should select some of the text offered and say it but not in unison.

The music to be used in the Prologue and three Interludes is shown in brackets. All four Gregorian Chants are included in Hymns Ancient and Modern and other widely-used hymnals.

The text is taken from all four Gospels and is, necessarily, something of a Tessarionic enterprise. The Evangelists differ in their characterisation, particularly in their portrayal of Jeshua, as well as in their narration, and so I have had to make choices to produce a coherent dramatic text. In this context, I have found it helpful to characterise the followers of Jeshua individually in a way which I hope does not stretch credulity too far.

Some readers may be puzzled by the characterisation of Jesus as Jeshua but this is because the latter is the name by which he would have been known by his contemporaries; “Yehosua”, Hebrew for “the Lord saves” was translated by the Greeks as “Iesous” which became Jesus. I have used the name “Jesus” in the address of a Roman Soldier who would not have spoken either Hebrew or Aramaic and I have also retained it in the hymns where its use is customary

The most controversial aspect of the text is the distribution of the events from the Passover meal to Crucifixion over three days, rather than two, in which I have followed the calculations of Professor Colin Humphreys who explains them in his Foreword.

The text is written in blank verse, with the lines of Jeshua in rhyming couplets or triplets. Some will be put off by the style but it is my experience, somewhat counter-intuitively, that people unaccustomed to acting give a better performance when the words do much of their work for them in the rhythm of the lines than they do when reading prose.

In order to avoid the use of a narrator (which might work well in an oratorio but does not in a drama), I have put the key points of the Gospels’ narrated text into the mouths of characters; and in order generally to deal with the issue of the passage of time, and particularly to break up the lengthy discourse of Jeshua based on John 13-17, I have inserted brief alternating scenes which I hope will lend some balance (and some rest and relief for the person reading Jeshua).

Solemn does not mean slow. There should be no gap between scenes and the whole should feel more like the rapid inter-cutting of television than a theatre play with the opening and shutting of curtains; this is a drama and all the evidence in the text shows that it was taking place at very high speed.

I am not fussy about gender characterisation particularly as the make-up of parish congregations tilts towards the female whereas the Gospels are tilted in precisely the opposite direction; although I must say I would be less comfortable with a male Mary than with a female Christ. If there are not enough readers to fill all the smaller parts then rather than readers crossing from north to south or vice versa, these parts can be read from the front row of the crowd/Sanhedrin.

I wish to acknowledge with thanks the tireless work of Hazel Ormond in preparing the manuscript although, of course, any outstanding errors are mine.

Kevin Carey
The Feast of St Martin 2013

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