‘I never dreamt Havant Passion Play would be so sensational’

DRAMATIC Jesus, played by James Burke-Dunsmore, is crucified alongside two criminals, played by Martin Mengham-Smith, left, 
and David Wiseman, right, in the Havant Passion Play

Published 20th August, 2015

Geoff Paffett, project leader, of the Havant Passion Play was astounded by the success of the open-air performances.

“When we first started thinking about staging a Passion Play in Havant, I never dreamt that it would be as sensational as this. To have 1,500 people crammed into Havant Park over two days, watching a play about the last week of Jesus’ life was amazing. To gather together a cast of 70, plus a team of 30 other volunteers to organise the open-air performance, was remarkable. 

I had seen the play during rehearsals, so spent some of the time watching the audience. Young and old, churchgoers and casual passers-by, they were spellbound. It doesn’t surprise me that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is gripping. It’s the greatest story ever told about a God who chooses to rescue us and forgive us – even though we don’t deserve it. Some of us are used to that story, but many who stopped and watched might never have heard it before. 

Our cast, almost all of whom were amateurs from local churches, did an amazing job. During rehearsals, they took on different characters and improvised scenes together. It meant the words they used on stage sounded authentic. I want to thank them for their commitment, and to thank director James Burke-Dunsmore for his inspirational portrayal of Jesus. 

Then there’s all the backstage people – the team who sewed together all the costumes, the animal handlers, and those who set up the stage. I want to thank those who organised this major community event – the site managers, first aiders, security people, and community groups who set up their stalls and turned the event into a family fun day. Thanks to the Mayor of Havant, Cllr Leah Turner, and Havant MP Alan Mak who opened the event. 

Thanks to the audience as well. It was a free event, so we had no idea who would turn up. I could never have imagined it would go so well. Most of all, I want to thank God. From the moment we decided that we should do this, He has guided us. Whenever there has been a problem, we’ve prayed and God has provided a solution. Our prayer now is that others who saw this play would also put their trust in God.”