Passion play has Jesus as radical Scots politician

Actor Duncan Rennie is taking on the role of Jesus. Picture: Jane Barlow
Actor Duncan Rennie is taking on the role of Jesus. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The greatest story ever told has been rewritten with a twist – with the last days of Jesus set on the eve of a referendum.

The creators of the Edinburgh Passion, which will be performed in Princes Street Gardens on Easter Sunday, have admitted the production may polarise opinion.

The version, by Cutting Edge Theatre, paints Jesus as a radical whom the media adores.

But his popularity brings him to the attention of Herod, a politician intent on winning a referendum to maintain the status quo.

At the mercy of Herod’s ruthless spin doctor McKayfus, Jesus finds himself cast as an insurgent, which means he could face the death penalty.

Crowds of up to 4500 have flocked to Princes Street Gardens in previous years to see a traditional Passion Play and it is hoped the new contemporary version, which even brings in the city’s infamous tram system, could attract even more.

Director Suzanne Lofthus said: “This is the first time we have done a fully modern production.

“I think the reaction will be mixed – people do not expect to see Jesus or a religious play in that kind of setting.

“What we are trying to do is say, if Jesus was around today, what would it be like? What would he be like?

“I think it will polarise opinion.”

The team is looking for budding actors, including a man to play Judas – or in this case, Jude, the disciple who betrays Jesus for money, and “two streetwise guys to play criminals”. There are also several non-speaking parts for men and women.

Playwright Rob Drummond said: “The politics are all there in the Bible. Herod is wanting to cling on to power, he is under a lot of pressure from Rome to keep control of his area.

“His motives for having Jesus killed are very political.

“People aren’t happy with their current situation, and this guy comes in and shakes things up. He’s preaching tolerance and peace but he’s branded as a troublemaker.

“We all think we know the story, but it’s only when you read the source materials that you realise how relevant a lot of the politics are.

Mr Drummond, whose father is a Church of Scotland minister, said: “The story without any emotional attachment is a very good story.

“It’s very important that it’s not an advert for the Yes or No campaign. The story is set in the midst of a referendum, but it’s more for modern reference. The trams are mentioned –and it’s not entirely positive
– and there’s lots of contemporary language.”

Open rehearsals will be held on Thursday at 7pm at St John’s Church.