‘JESUS IN THE PARK’
We had only envisaged the 2015 performances, but we couldn’t have known that the experiences of that year would generate so many strong relationships amongst people from so many walks of life and beliefs, through social and worship events throughout the year. As a result, a new production depicting different parts of Christ’s life was mounted in 2017.
‘HAVANT PASSION PLAY’
“I never dreamt Havant Passion Play would be so sensational”
Our first production, ‘Havant Passion Play’. The emotional impact and audience numbers was overwhelming.
THE NEWS Published 20 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.”
In 2013 HPP was established as a charitable company limited by guarantee.
We’re indebted to those who served as Directors of the company during that year: Ann Brown, Rubin Doppgima, Carol Lanham, Geoff Paffett, David Smith, Cathy Stevens, Linda Stimpson, Bill Stillwell and Elaine Wood. We’re also immensely grateful to all those who served on the Implementation Committee during that period to take the actions necessary to mount the drama.
Almost none of those involved had any experience of drama production, so we contacted various local drama companies, both professional and amateur, to see who we might engage to help and guide us.
“In 2011 a daft idea came to me: what about a Passion Play in Havant?”
Revd. Bill Stillwell
This idle dream was picked up by a few people, notably Geoff Paffett, who carried out a feasibility study. Over the next two years, in consultation with Havant Borough Council, we considered various venues and eventually decided upon Havant Park. We also visited other Passion play ventures such as those at Winchester and Southampton to learn from their experiences.