The Edge of Passion

April 3, 2015 | By More

Easter Play gives women their voice

Edinburgh’s Princes Street Easter Play returns this year on Easter Saturday with a new script that explores Jesus’ crucifixion through those who were on the periphery.

On the Edge, written by journalist Susan Mansfield, gives voice to eight individuals and takes its inspiration from the hints in the Bible of the overlooked and unsung characters.

Katharine Calder performds in 2013's CrossWords. Photo: Princes Street Easter Play

Katharine Calder in 2013’s CrossWords. Photo: Princes Street Easter Play

Speaking of her script Mansfield said: “I was interested in the fact that there are a lot of characters on the edges of the Easter story who play a role in things, but don’t get a chance to speak. I wanted to see what would happen if they were given a voice.

“There are references in the Bible to a group of women who followed Jesus right through to the end, who witnessed everything.

“We don’t know anything about them, even their names in most cases, because of the attitude to women in the society of the time. I decided to put these women at the centre, so we can hear their version of events. It’s not exactly a feminist take, but it is hearing the story of Jesus in a fresh way.”

Mansfield has found other characters on the edges too, some known and others less-well-known: Salome, proud of her two strapping laddies, James and John, who were among the twelve apostles. Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute who was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection.

There is Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross when he collapsed under its weight, Claudia Procula the wife of Pontius Pilate and the unnamed Roman centurion, supervising the crucifixion and who is said to have commented: “Surely this was a righteous man”.

For each of these Mansfield has found a deeper character. Her Simon, radicalised by the Roman occupation of Judea, is on his way to commit an act of politically motivated violence.

hostile fringes

The privileged Roman governor’s wife Claudia only questions the values of Rome when she is sent to the hostile fringes of its empire. The centurion is part of a highly trained peacekeeping force – unwelcome, ill-equipped and placed in a contentious position.

As Mansfield says: “The modern resonances haven’t been hard to find.”

The audience of 2013’s CrossWords. Photo: Princes Street Easter Play

Some of the audience of 2013’s CrossWords. Photo: Princes Street Easter Play

The Edinburgh Easter Play started life in 2005 as a re-enactment of Jesus’ death and resurrection, directed by Suzanne Lofthus. It ended crossing over the railway bridge to Castle Hill. The same script, by Kamala Maniam, was used in 2006, with Shona McNeil directing.

In 2007, the Edinburgh Easter Play joined forces with the Life of Christ, previously performed at Dundas Estate, using its script and again directed by Lofthus. This version was repeated every year until 2010.

In 2013, after a two year haitus, Lofthus commissioned a new a series of monologues called CrossWords. While in 2014, she directed Rob Drummond’s Edinburgh Passion, a modern take on the Easter story, set on the eve of the Scottish independence referendum.

Such plays follow a tradition which is probably older than the Bible itself: before they were written down, the Gospels were passed on as stories which were not just told, but performed at appropriate times of the year.

Speaking of this year’s production, Suzanne Lofthus said: “Working on the Easter Play for so many years has given both myself and over 200 community actors the opportunity to always try finding a new approach to the timeless story of Jesus.

“The actors are mainly drawn from the local community and are a group of people from different backgrounds and beliefs who all work together to present the story in a creative, fun and challenging production. This year, we build on our CrossWords production in 2013, which presented a series of character monologues, by expanding the stories of those people who witnessed the work of Jesus from the sidelines, and yet were profoundly changed by their experience.”

Listing

On The Edge
Princes Street Gardens West, Princes Street, EH2 2HG
Saturday 4 April 2015.
One performance only: 2pm. Entry free and unticketed.
Dress appropriately for the weather which is forecast cloudy.
This is a promenade production and seating is not provided.
Further details on the Easter Play website: www.easterplay.org

ENDS

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