New Easter Passion

Apr 14 2017 | By More

Fresh take on Easter Story

Edinburgh’s Easter Play in Princes Street Gardens gets a fresh perspective this Saturday, as new writer Kamala Jane Santos puts Mary, mother of Jesus, in the narrator’s role.

This is the first time the annual production has had a female character narrate the story of Christ’s Passion. To add local significance to the performance on Saturday 15 April, Santos gives a Scots accent to several of the characters.

Duncan Rennie plays Jesus in the Edinburgh Easter Play. Photo Colin Hattersley

The Edinburgh Easter Play, staged this year by a cast of just under 40 people, is one of the largest community theatre productions in the city. The amateur cast is supported by a professional director, stage manager and professional actor Duncan Rennie in the role of Jesus.

Director Suzanne Lofthus said: “It’s not enough to put on the Easter story every year, we are always looking for new ways to tell it, and ways which enable people to connect with it.

“Having a woman’s take on the story brings a fresh perspective. Because of how things were in the society of the time, women aren’t mentioned very much in traditional presentations of the story, but they were there and witnessed everything.

“Hearing Mary tell the story in her own words brings it alive in a new way.”

In recent years, the team has tried experimental approaches to the story, including On the Edge in 2015, a site-specific promenade production using characters on the fringes of the story, and The Edinburgh Passion in 2014, a contemporary Passion Play by Rob Drummond, which attracted an audience of over 2,000.

traditional costumed production

This year, for the first time in six years, the production will be a (mostly) traditional Passion Play, set in the First Century AD. Rev Mike Frew, chairman of the Princes Street Easter Play Trust, said: “We have gone back to a traditional costumed production this year because we felt that a lot of people don’t know the original story.

Duncan Rennie as Jesus in the Edinburgh Easter Play. Photo Colin Hattersley

“We really want the characters to speak in contemporary voices, the kind of language people who hear and use in conversation, to make a bridge from the original story to the 21st century.”

Lofthus expands: “Another thing we have done this year is that the writer Kamala Jane Santos has created several characters who speak in Scots. People might be a bit surprised at first when they hear John the Baptist speaking in the mother tongue, but we want to communicate the fact that the people in the Bible story were ordinary men and women, just like us.”

That sense of the production being of and for ordinary people is enhanced by a cast which ranges in age from students to retired people, and comes together from all walks of life with doctors, teachers, window cleaners and bar-tenders all taking part. Some are Easter Play veterans, others doing drama for the first time, but all are intent on making the Easter story relevant to our times.


The Edinburgh Easter Play
Princes Street Gardens West, Princes Street, EH2 2HG
Saturday 15 April 2017
One peformance only: 2pm.
Free, unticketed. Details from:

The performance starts at 2pm and will last about two hours. Arrive in plenty of time. There will be no seating, apart from available provision for elderly or disabled.


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Comments (2)

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  1. Suzanne Senior says:

    Unfortunately I only managed to see the last 35 minutes of this, but was very impressed with what I did see. I arrived during Jesus’ trial and felt immediately involved, as the prosecutor asked who we wanted to be released. I found myself suppressing the urge to ask for Brian, but the Pharisees planted amongst us soon put paid to that by successfully calling for Barnabus to be spared.

    We then moved over to the other side of the Gardens to witness the Crucifixion, and it was here that the real emotional heart of the story revealed itself. Beautifully staged, it could not fail to move even the most die-hard atheist. The clear amplification of the voices and the fitting music tugged at the heartstrings and I, for one, was inconsolable, as was his mother, Mary, whose very real sobs rang out through the speaker as he was carted off, dead, on the cross. Making her the narrator was a clever tactic as it heightened the very simple and universal grief of a parent losing a child, to which everyone, regardless of their religious
    persuasion, could respond.

    The aftermath and subsequent resurrection three days later were very well handled, although I had to suppress a giggle when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appeared before me, beating a path to the “stage”, enveloped in what looked like a very oversized white sheet!

    Well done to all concerned. Every actor played their part in creating this very special piece of theatre. I only wish I’d been able to see more. Until next year…..

  2. Sylvia Trotter says:

    The real reason it is appropriate for Jesus and his disciples to speak Scots is that they were Galilean so would have had an identifiable dialect and accent. I would have liked them to be more Scottish. (I am a longstanding English resident!). However, it is not easy to perform in Scots unless one is well versed in it. Also, the writer would need to be steeped in the language.

    This is not meant as a criticism, just a comment, as I found the production engrossing and profoundly moving. I saw several people in tears during the crucifixion. Great that the weather was so kind. So, many thanks to you all.