Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever

Cheltenham Passion Play - Production Notes

The Cheltenham Passion Festival 2000
Good Friday, 21st April, 2000
Check List of Arrangements
Arrangements on the day
·       St Luke’s church hall was booked as a base for the day.
·       The cast gathered to get ready in St Luke’s Hall.
·       At 11-40 - we began with Prayers for the Passion Play - led by Mike Lodge - St Luke’s Vicar
·       the cast left for Sandford Park at 11-50

Act 1                                      Friendship                                                            Sandford Mill Park                                                            
Scene 1 - The Sermon on the Mount and the Feeding of the 5000            `                               12-00
around the Fountain adjacent to College Road
·           For the feeding of the 5000 ... hot cross buns - St Luke’s acquired 200 hot cross buns and brought people ready to distribute them.  They came to an Act 1 Rehearsal.
·           stewards marshalled people - and then directed people on the procession
·           help was offered to wheel chair users to get up the steps into the French Gardens.  A ramp was available but not used.

Scene 3 - The healing of the woman with issue of blood - Mary Magdalene                          12-15
in the space beside the narrow path
·       stewards needed to arrange people to gather round the spot where Jesus stops

Scene 3 - The Sower, the Woman at the well, setting out for Jerusalem                                   12-25
in the French Gardens                                                                                                                        
·           The Woman at the Well needed a bucket
·           Elim provided a fun version of the Parable of the Sower.  The Elim actors were in white - the Sower is brought on by the Harvester - the Samaritan Woman - the team are the Samaritan people from the Woman’s town.
·           stewards ensured that the crowd divided around the terracing ... and then kept people off the grass.  In the event this was easier said than done as we were almost overwhelmed by torrential rain!
·           Wheel chair users were guided to remain on the terracing

Scene 3 - The Road to Jerusalem                                                                                                     12-35
around the bushes just below the French Gardens - with Friendship Circle in distance
·       stewards arranged the crowd to the left of the bushes - looking down towards the Friendship Circle
·       help for wheel chair users down the steps - ramp not used.

Scene 5 - the Journey to Jerusalem begins                                                                                   12-40
around the Friendship Circle
·       Donkey standing by - around the Friendship Circle - Donkey accompanied us to the gates of the city - and then led the procession round to Cambray.
·       Palms ready to wave - stored beside the path. 

Scene 6 - At the Gates of Jerusalem                                                                                               12-50
·       stewards guided people down both sides of the fountain
·       Caiaphas, Annas and Joseph with Bishop behind - blocking the gateway

Act 2 -                                    Anointing - Cambray and The High Street                    12-55
·       Jesus and disciples head off first for Cambray a break and refreshments
·       those taking part in the hotcross bun selling ... also need to set off first ... or be waiting for us at Cambray
·       The band went on to be ready to greet the crowd - they stood outside Cambray’s courtyard.
·       The Police were supposed to escort the procession across the Road ... and now escort us through the town - in fact they did not attend.

As we moved up Bath Street ...

·       Jesus and the disciples go ahead and into Cambray Church - they needed somewhere to sit, and drinks and refreshments available.  In the event they needed to dry off and warm up too!!
·       The band played Palm Sunday hymn tunes while the crowd arrived.
·       People from Cambray and St Matthew’s organised selling of Hot Cross Buns - sellers had hot cross buns in trays around their necks - trays supplied by the Everyman Theatre.
·       Tables with buns at Cambray - Peter - and Cambray people
·       Stewards were to have accompanied the procession - but in the event had to control the traffic
·       people were ready with programmes/publicity leaflets to give to onlookers on the street.  This was organised by St Matthew’s and was an important part of the outreach of the Play.  The intention was that all participating in the crowd ... and all onlookers would be offered a programme.  People were also on hand to offer copies of a Gospel ... and to chat with people.
Pigeons were provided by a member of the Pigeon club - they were in a cage in the Courtyard and were released as Jesus overturned the tables.

Scene 1 - cleansing of the Temple  - just outside Cambray,                                                                        1-05
·       Stewards marshalled crowd in front of Cambray Church
·       Band went on to the High Street ready to welcome the crowd on arrival at Burger King.
·       hard sell of Hot Cross buns went on until Jesus burst out of the doors with the disciples
behind and the religious leaders shoo-ing them out.
·       tables were needed to be overturned
·       Cambray provided a sound system outside the Church - for Jesus and others to use.

Parade from Cambray.  The intention had been that a ‘musical band’ would process ahead of the cast.  In the event members of the Cheltenham Silver Band and the Salvation Army Band provided a ‘static’ band at Cambray, on the High Street, on the Promenade outside Hoopers, at the Crucifixion scene and again on Easter Sunday morning.  1-15

Scene 2 - The Last Week                                                                                                                    1-25
On the pedestrianised area in front of the Regent’s Arcade
There is a rectangle between the two sets of marked cobbles, and between the lamp - posts outside the Regent’s Arcade and the benches at the top of Regent’s Street - there is a lamp post in the middle.
The Action took place using staging blocks opposite Burger King  - on the long side of the Rectangle - outside a Night Club Entrance.
·       Staging blocks from Bournside School were transported around on a trolley from the Lido by volunteer stewards from the Lido.  The staging blocks were very simple and easily carried.
·       with the staging we needed a number of props - cup for the Last Supper - bag of money for the religious leaders - one of them can have been carrying it under their robes from the beginning.     Cloth for the foot-washing - this could be something that Jesus had carried round with him under his robes.  Strong smelling perfume for Mary Magdalene to pour over Jesus - she might have picked this up at Cambray.  A bottle of the Cheltenham Millennium Wine - [Grape juice] - and the bucket carried by the Woman at the Well.
·       The Harvest Arts theatre people had been with us - they needed to be in place at the head of the procession.
·       The band took their stand at the far end of the rectangle - at the top of Regent’s Street

Procession from the staging - round to Cavendish House                                                                          1-50
·       Judas and the Religious Leaders went on ahead
·       The Band then followed and set themselves up at the beginning of the pedestrianised area of the Promenade - they played Holy Week hymn tunes.
·       The marching band had marched down to the Promenade and had spent time counter marching - this was a good preview for the arrival of the Play!
·       Jesus followed ... then the women ... then the disciples and the crowd
·       the staging blocks were pulled round to Cavendish House and set out ready for Garden of Gethsemane and Trial scenes.
·       we needed to work out an exact spot for each pair of women to stand

Act 3 -                    Betrayal                -               The Promenade
Scene 1 - The Garden of Gethsemane                                                                                                              2-00
on the Pedestrianised Area under the trees outside Cavendish House
·       staging blocks needed for Jesus and the three disciples - Peter
·       stewards marshalled the crowd into a similar rectangle under the trees
·       Judas and the religious leaders went to the far end of that area by the Bank -
·       the cadet force stewards and other uniformed stewards were to have marshalled the crowd keeping access for shoppers but in the event had to keep the traffic down.  Some of the uniformed Cadets were prominent in the Garden of Gethsemane ready for the arrest and trial scene. 
·       Peter needed a sword.

Scene 2 - Trial before the Religious Authorities                                                                                           2-15
This took place at the opposite end of the acting area.  Effectively it was a single piece of action.

Procession up the Promenade to the Municipal Offices
·       We went up the wide pavement - and then through the two gaps past the war memorial and gathered the crowd in front of the steps of the Town Hall
·       the Church Lads and Girls brigade provided the marching band and went ahead of the procession
·       then came Jesus under arrest - with the Religious leaders
·       the crowd then followed
·       the disciples held back and mingled in with the crowd from this point on.
·       the women are mingled in with the crowd - but when we get to the War Memorial - they went on to the Tourist Information Bureau where the banners were stored ready for them to pick up and use for the Way of the Cross.  The banners were attached to 8 foot poles with a cross bar creating a cross shape.  In the event some of the poles were damaged in the wind. It was necessary to have two people to each banner.
Scene 3 - Trial before the Civil Authorities
Outside entrance to the Municipal Offices -                                                                                                   2-25
·       Pilate and Herod waited inside the Municipal Office entrance.  They had not joined in up until this point.  They were in touch with the organisers by mobile phone.
·       Dave Banyard, the Mayor, was able to ensure that the entrance hall was opened and staffed by one Council worker.  This was a great boon and made a world of difference..
·       A sound system was set up on the steps of the Municipal Offices.  There was a microphone for Jesus, one for Pilate/Herod and one for the religious leaders.  It was possible to amplify this scene very effectively.
·       We asked if it was possible to have flags flying from the flag poles but this was not possible.  It would have been very effective.  In the event we provided a couple of big red flags.
·       A crown of thorns and a purple robe was ready.
·       The banners were stored in the Tourist Information Bureau - our thanks to the staff for opening the office specially.
·       The wooden cross was standing ready - within the wall around the War Memorial.

The Way of the Cross                                                                                                                         2-40
·       The Church lads brigade band led the way - with drum beats only
·       Then the Women with their banners
·       We worked out precise spot for each pair of women to stand - at equal distances from the Municipal Offices right round to the site of the crucifixion.
·       Alongside the third pair of women  - 3 daughters of Jerusalem.
·       Alongside the fifth pair of women - Simon of Cyrene
·       Alongside the sixth pair of women - Mary the Mother of Jesus
·       Alongside the ninth pair of women - Veronica with a cloth
·       Alongside the 11th pair of women - two thieves -
·       Then Jesus carrying the cross
·       and soldiers and execution party
·       and then the crowd

The procession went up the wide pavement to the traffic lights - across to the other side of the Promenade and over the traffic lights to the Quadrangle insurance building.
The sequence of Stations of the Cross begins outside the Quadrangle building on the wide pavement towards the top of the Promenade.

The effect of this was to have been that from the War Memorial up as far as the Quadrangle Insurance buildings it was simply a procession headed by the Church lads Brigade band and the women carrying their Banners. In the event Jesus was escorted by the Roman Guards through the war memorial and back to the Promenade - the crowd had a will of its own!

The Procession then turns into the main path through the Imperial Gardens.

Act 4 - Death
The Calvary Scene took place on a slight rise in the grass opposite the gate to the Walled Garden - just behind the floral ‘crest’..
·       Scaffolding was erected on Thursday afternoon. This was organised by the Prestbury Churches with full co-operation with the Parks and Gardens department.
·       Volunteers remained with the scaffolding until the early hours of Good Friday.
Scaffolding was dismantled an hour or so after the end of the Passion Play.  It had been erected professionally - it was dismantled by volunteers who were qualified builders and stored in Prestbury until it could be collected by the firm from whom we had hired it.

The Crucifixion                                                                                                                                   2-50
On the grass behind the Town Hall

·       The drums of the Church Lads brigade took us as far as the Cross
·       The Execution party began the preparations for the Crucifixion as soon as they arrived
·       the stewards marshalled the crowd around the foot of the Cross
·       the ‘musical’ Band had taken up their position between the scaffolding and the Town Hall.   They did not play until after the end of the play when they came in with When I survey the Wondrous.  They went on to play a selection of Good Friday hymns tunes for about twenty minutes - they finished once more with When I survey.
·       The characters playing the parts in Act 4 needed to be in place around the cross.

The Burial                                                                                                                                            3-05

The final words were spoken by the Narrator from the scaffolding at the foot of the Cross as the body of Christ was being carried away for burial
·       We needed to ensure that the gate to the walled garden was open
·       The disciples carrying Christ to the Garden had among their number two GP’s - they checked that Matt playing the part of Christ was all right - he had been exposed to the elements for about 15 minutes on the cross.  He was wrapped in a survival blanket and coat - and left with a flask of coffee and other eats.
·       A stage flat painted green with a rock on it was pushed in front of the gate
·       the Women remain around the cross with the banners - and the band continued playing hymns about the cross - for a further ten minutes.  Disiples and other members of the cast sat on the steps
·       the cast return to St Luke’s Hall
·       Matt waited in the Walled Garden until the crowds had virtually dispersed - he was relieved by Richard and accompanied back to St Luke’s Hall to rejoin the cast.
·       St Luke’s provided warm drinks, soup and rolls for the cast.  In all there were about 80 in the costumed cast.
·       We finish at St Luke’s hall with Prayers  to conclude the day.

Act 5 -                                    Resurrection                                        8-00 on Easter Sunday Morning
The crowd gathered by 8-00 in the morning facing the gate to the walled garden. The walled garden was open - but no one went into the Garden.   Churches Together in Cheltenham celebrated Easter.

·       Gardeners took up their positions by 7-15
·       Stewards were at the walled garden by 7-30
·       Cast met at 7-30 at St Andrew’s
·       7-50 prayers and the cast moved over to the Imperial Gardens  Prayers were led in the Church by Glyn Jenkins and Joan Winterbottom - the URC ministers.
·       We need to ensure that the gate to the walled garden was open - we were able to borrow the keys for the week-end.
·       We returned to St Andrew’s for breakfast                                                                                                8-30
·       Finish with prayers - Richard to arrange with Glyn and Joan

Numbers                               We started with 600 in Sandford Park and ended on Good Friday with 2000 in the Imperial Gardens.  We were 600 on Easter morning.

Traffic control                     We needed traffic control from the Police but in the event this did not materialise.  The route was agreed with the police well in advance.  The procession followed the flow of traffic, for the most part along pedestrianised routes.  There was a minimum of disuption to the traffic of the town.  Permission was granted - and a letter received from the Borough Council traffic department confirming that we had all the permissions necessary.  Richard had a phone conversation on Friday, 3rd March with the the Sergeant responsible for such events.  He was happy with the arrangements for the day and could foresees no problems - he felt it was not necessary to have a meeting.  He had the initial draft time-table.  A letter announced subsequently that because of ‘best value’ the police would not be present.  Richard contacted them on the phone and explained the need for police help with the traffic - arrangement were agreed to be in attendance.  Richard submitted to the police in person detailed timetable and arrangements for the event.  In the event the police did not attend.  It was not easy marshalling 2000 people through the town centre without any police presence - it can be argued that it is not wise.

Stewarding                           We had hoped to have traffic control provided by the Police in the way that they have been accustomed to doing for the Good Friday Walk of Witness - in addition we would supply stewards to marshal the procession as per the guidance of the police.  Our stewards would then marshal the procession.  We had approximately 25 stewards - many of whom had to be diverted away from marshalling the crowds to directing traffic.

Sound                                     Sound systems were used at Cambray and on the steps of the Municipal Offices.  For the remainder of the event voices were not amplified.  We devoted a whole evening to voice coaching from Paul Birch, a professional actor. This was invaluable.  We used acoustic instruments for any music - including drums, brass instruments, maybe Salvation Army band. 

Staging and Props               We used a minimum of staging and props.  None in Sandford Park.  Staging is needed on the High Street and outside Cavendish House on the Promenade.  Six blocks were borrowed from Bournside and pulled round on a trolley from the Lido.

At Imperial Gardens we erected scaffolding for a stage for the Calvary scene.  It was hired at a cost of £500.  It was erected on Thursday, guarded on Thursday night and dismantled on Friday evening.  This was in close liaison with the Council and following all their safety stipulations.

The license to use the Parks insists that any erections be checked by their Building inspectors for safety.

were arranged by a team using ...
·            costumes from Charlton Kings Players
·            the Prestbury Passion Play
·            the Centurion’s robes together with the Guards’ robes were hired from RSC, Stratford.

Insurance                              Cover was taken out with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company to provide public liability insurance.   This was a condition of our use of the parks and highways.

Parking                                 We encouraged people to use Public Transport, Park and Ride and the Town Car Parks

Toilets                                   There are public toilets in Royal Well, and at the Town Hall.  If it was felt necessary we could arrange to have access to town centre churches.  Cambray was open at the time of the Cleansing of the Temple. 

First Aid                                First Aid cover was provided by the St John Ambulance Brigade according to their advice.

Licenses                                Licenses and permissions were needed from the Road and Traffic department and the Parks and Gardens department of the Borough Council ... and also from the Police.