Norwich Passion Play turned into dramatic Gospel film 

A short film, recorded during the recent Norwich Passion Play, has been released online to tell the Gospel story in a contemporary way through the drama played out on the city streets by Saltmine Theatre Company and local actors and musicians.

The Norwich Passion Play was watched by over 1,400 people who were captivated by the dramatic scenes acted out in bright sunshine on Hay Hill and Millennium Plain and inside St Peter Mancroft church over the Easter weekend in mid-April.
Large crowds, which packed out Hay Hill, were mezmerised by the rabble-rousing of Emily Feltham as Mary Magdalene atop a plinth. Local drummers and chanting created a carnival atmosphere as the throng eagerly joined the Palm Sunday procession following Freddy Goymer, as Jesus, on a bike up to Millennium Plain.

The modern-day drama, recalling historic events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, continued to unfold in front of the Forum, with the Last Supper – featuring fish and chips from Norwich Market – and the poignant betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The arrest of Jesus by riot shield-carrying militants and his trial, and sentence to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, took place in front of jeering crowds, including the Norwich-based community cast led by Rachel Hobson.

Some were shocked and many others left in tears by the portrayal of Jesus carrying his cross and then being tied to it, along with two convicted criminals either side of him.

As a dead Jesus was carried away, the crowds were directed inside St Peter Mancroft to see the last scene. The group of stunned and dispirited disciples were transformed when Mary Magdalene said she had seen Jesus come back from the dead. Disciples Thomas, Peter and John were amazed when the resurrected Jesus appeared at the back of the church to loud cheers from a packed audience.

Jesus’ triumph over death was acclaimed by all and then celebrated in style by a Norfolk Gospel choir and band, led by Heather Land, who sang Great is He and Oh Happy Day as the audience stood up to clap and sing along, before giving a standing ovation.

The one-off event was staged by Celebrate Norfolk with Saltmine Theatre Company and members of dozens of Norwich churches after being delayed last year by the Covid pandemic.

And now the team at Celebrate Norfolk have released a 13-minute film based on the play to help it to reach an even greater audience online.

Organiser Keith Morris said: “We were overwhelmed with the response from the many hundreds who joined us at Easter, packing out all of the locations.

“We didn’t want that dramatic telling of the Gospel story just to be for those who could attend on the day – we also want people to be able to follow the entire story online.

“So we have worked with videographer Adam Jackson to produce a compelling and fast-moving film which captures all the key elements of the last few days of Jesus life, death and resurrection.

“You can see it online on YouTube and we also want to make high resolution versions of it available for free to any church, life group or organisation who wants it to play to whatever audience they choose.”

To see the film, click here or see above.

If you would like to be sent a high-resolution version of the film suitable for being shown in small-group, church or public settings, please email keith.morris@networknorwich.co.uk