Roman soldiers dressed in authentic styled armour of the 12th Legion, tramped through Trafalgar Square this afternoon, as the story of the Passion of Jesus was re-enacted by a cast of more than 100. The Good Friday production by the Wintershall Estate theatre company, drew an estimated audience of up to 20,000 people, among them families, church groups and tourists, who, in spite of showery weather, crammed onto steps around the Square and the front of the National Gallery for both the dress rehearsal and main performance. Some members of the audience were recruited in the crowd scenes.
The drama, accompanied by a beautiful musical score, depicted some of the key events in the life of Jesus (played by actor Simon Hemingway) - scenes of miracles, his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, driving the shopkeepers from the Temple, the Last Supper, his betrayal and trial, death and Resurrection.
As heavy London buses continued to rumble by, the Crucifixion was portrayed, under the shadow of Nelson’s Column.
Sukele Harper an Anglican from Stoke Newington said: "Seeing the story close up like this really brings it home. Although we are all so engrossed in fact the world out there is carrying on as usual."
David Jones, also from east London, who watched the dress rehearsal, said: "I'm going to church later today but having seen this play I feel as though I have already attended a service. It was very moving."
Japanese tourists Keiko and Yukiko said: "We're not Christian but this is an incredible drama to watch. We were just passing and it was so fortunate that this was taking place today. "
Earlier Archbishop Vincent Nichols said he was thrilled at the prospect of the play. “One of the great themes for debate is religion in the public square and there is no square more public than Trafalgar,” he said.
“This story lies at the heart of the culture of this country. To be unaware of the Christian story is to be unable to make sense of so much which makes up the fabric of the society in which we live."
“The Passion explores the values of being human, the nature of pain and suffering, through the Cross, compassion, forgiveness, hope and a new vision of eternal life.”
The Archbishop said: “This play is not proselytising. Knowledge of Christ is not something that can be forced on someone. It is an invitation to people to get to know Christ personally. That can be a transformational experience.”
He said he hoped the play "will bring the true meaning of Easter to many more here in the centre of London.”
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