IT’S A dark, wet and cold night at the beginning of November in Nicker village.
Halloween is just over, Christmas is two months away but the thoughts of the over 20 men and women braving the elements are focused on next Easter. The Grean Drama Group are to recreate the Passion of Jesus Christ over 24 hours on Holy Thursday to Good Friday - the first of its kind in Ireland.
It will begin with the arrest of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane – and this is where we find ourselves on a Monday night as the clock nears nine.
Director and award-winning actor Eamonn Harty leads the march down to the venue for the Garden of Gethsemane, which is in the shadow of a huge beech tree outside parish priest Fr Pat Burns’ house.
Eamonn, playing the role of Jesus, drops to his knees on the cold wet ground and proclaims to the heavens above “Yahweh” - the Jewish name for God in the Old Testament.
“Yahweh, I am weak, give me the strength to do what I must do,” exclaims Eamonn in his powerful voice. The place falls silent.
Eamonn gets to his feet and says they want to “make the audience live every minute of this fantastic story”.
“People are used to curtains opening and closing, there will be no curtains closing, no exact times. We want the audience to live every moment with us,” said Eamonn.
Eamonn points to where Judas Iscariot will kiss Jesus and then Judas will go to the tree.
“The crowd won’t know whether to stay or follow. Jesus will be arrested by the soldiers and marched out. He has nothing to say but he will speak to everyone. We want them to be part of this,” said Eamonn.
They want crowds along the side of the road as Jesus is marched to the church for his trial before Caiaphas.
Returning to the church, suddenly Eamonn transforms into Mary and catches tightly to the railing and lowers his body slowly to the floor.
“We want the audience to live and feel her pain, everybody has pain, everybody has troubles. We want every person to understand her pain, connect with her pain and maybe find peace if only for 10 minutes,” said Eamonn. “They will not see everything, they will not hear everything but our challenge is to make them feel everything,” he adds.
Joint PRO with Mike Gleeson, Ger O’Connell, says the project will be carried out in real time to reflect the precise timeline of the actual Passion.
“It will start with Jesus’ agony in the Garden after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening, his subsequent arrest and trial before Caiaphas on Thursday night.
“Being held captive throughout the night and appearing before Pontius Pilate on Good Friday morning where his fate is sealed and he is scourged and crowned with thorns in public.
“Finally we will re-create the scene where Jesus walks with the cross to his crucifixion and death on Nicker Hill on Good Friday. We believe this event will be unique in Ireland and will emulate the famous Passion plays performed in Oberammergau in Austria every 10 years,” said Ger.
We want our audience to experience and have an understanding of the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ for mankind,” adds Ger, who thanked Fr Burns for his support in this huge undertaking.
During the night Jesus, played by Garry Fraher, will remain captive in the beautiful grotto built in to the steep hillside.
“That night will be really beautiful. We are particularly asking people to come down during the night and the early hours of the morning and sit with him for a half hour or an hour. They can have a private moment with him in the grotto,” said Eamonn.
He says this plan has been in his head for 20 years and now that he has got the backing of the Grean Drama Group he is going to leave no stone unturned in putting on a Passion that those present will never forget.
“We are going to grab them and we are going to hold them,” said Eamonn, whose energy is infectious.
Ger says their aim is to involve as many people from their local community as possible.
“Either through active audience participation or assistance in the running of the event. We would hope that all the local groups - GAA, Pallasgreen Templebraden Development Association, women’s group, active retired, youth club etc - will contribute by giving of their time through assisting with car-parking, stewarding, refreshments etc.
“We firmly believe that this project will be something that people will still be talking about many years from now as the cast and crew are determined to produce something that will be truly memorable,” said Ger. Rehearsals started in September as they look forward to Holy Thursday and Good Friday on April 17 and 18.