Every year in Melbourne during Easter, various organisations put on a play that re-enacts the Passion of Christ. I was fortunate enough to be involved in one of them for the past few years. Having never been part of an outdoor play, it was exciting to go see one being performed.
The Annual Melbourne Passion Play is the brain child of Pat LaMana and is free to one and all. It is non-denominational and commercially-free. So don’t expect to see any ice-cream vendors, hot dogs or any other savouries for sale around the park. The site, Ruffey Lake Park, is an amazing location in itself with sweeping views of large gum trees and a magnificent lake. They even have a spot to play disc golf (or Frisbee for us folks that don’t quite understand the term!) With all the people teeming about, I was glad to see that the Frisbee players did not interrupt this annual tradition.
The play was done quite professionally, from the props, to the costumes and the level of performance presented. The roman soldiers striking red outfits and armour against the backdrop of the park was an amazing sight which helped to set the scene of days of old. Then the period costumes of the performers just added to the authenticity of the scenes. The story followed Jesus’ baptism, temptation in the desert, meeting the disciples, the various miracles he performed, including the wedding at Cana, raising of Lazarus and the healing of the sick girl. The story behind Zaccheus, the tax collector who climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus, actually had the actor in the tree. And much to the amusement and perhaps more to their shock, the actor’s sudden appearance even when you know he is there was sight to behold indeed. During the scene where Jesus preaches to the 5000 on the mount, saw Jesus actually stroll through the crowd interacting with them. There were many ooohs and ahhs to be held. Towards the end where Jesus gets annoyed at the temple scene with all the traders, I don’t think the cast members themselves were expecting all the fruits to literally go all over the place. The recreation of the last supper was as close to accurate from the famous last supper scene by Michelangelo.
In the second act, the makeup done on Jesus was second to none. I couldn’t really tell where the makeup ended and the actual beating began. (Although for clarity and transparency, he wasn’t physically beaten up). Upon him being scourged, those lashes looked way too good. Absolute props to the makeup team (yes, pun intended!). And when they had Jesus crucified, I really enjoyed the tenacity of the bad thief and the banter between him and the guards whilst Jesus was being nailed to the cross. Even strolling through the crowds, right from the start you could hear all the various conversations being held between the various townspeople. Whether they were talking about the tides that were coming in that brought them a good fishing catch, to mending their nets, a rich harvest or, even in those days, the tax collectors coming for their dues which had one townsperson tersely respond. Alas, such a thing could not happen in today’s day and age although many people quietly smiled at the comment made. This running commotion from the crowd did not stop either. In the temple the crowd was divided with some calling for his release and the other his execution. They really portrayed the rabble and the rebellion that would have happened had Pilate not had Jesus executed. What is, and always be an interesting phenomenon to note is the fact that it always gets overcast whenever Jesus is crucified. Always. Whether I have seen it be performed in Italy, the World Youth Day service or on TV, it always gets overcast when Jesus is crucified!
And his resurrection from the tomb was phenomenal. It was just amazing. As an important note, the play will only be done once on Palm Sunday from 2014 so keep that in mind should you like to go see this play again. If you’re looking for a great way to entertain the family and learn more about Jesus (as there is nothing of interest on TV, plus you get to move around the park which is a great health bonus) or a change from the usual stations of the cross (for the religious), you cannot go past this free even in Ruffey Lake Park, Doncaster.
Transport – Might have to drive here.
Food – Bring your own light snacks
Other – Either a rug or a chair to be seated and weather appropriate clothing (it is Melbourne after all!)
Cost of entry – Free!
See you there!