As part of this year’s Island of Culture the Manx Passion is to be performed at sites around the island this Easter.
It is an ambitious community theatrical project to be staged in seven locations and with a cast that includes a number of first time-performers and singers.
Its director is Jan Palmer Sayer, who holds a degree in drama and education from Middlesex University, has run her own theatre company, Shattered Windscreen, and recently retired as head teacher of Herstwood, a specialist arts college in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.
She said: ‘Right from the outset I wanted this to be a community production. Very much in the spirit of Island of Culture 2014, which seeks to leave a lasting legacy, I wanted the cast to include people who’d never acted or sung before but who, bolstered by this experience, might choose to go on and perform again.
‘We’ve had a tremendous response from the Isle of Man community. We didn’t hold auditions as such – this was very much a community response to our request for cast members, supporters and helpers. The cast spans a really wide age group, from a seven-year-old girl to a man in his 80s. Also in the cast is 2013 Young Singer of Mann finalist Michelle Jamieson, who’s 16 and playing Mary.
‘Carrie Hunt of the Broadway Theatre Company has provided us with some incredibly gifted young performers; then we have the Isle of Man Wind Orchestra, a choir from Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, the Lon Dhoo male voice choir and our own Passion choir. This is a 20-strong scratch choir we’ve formed, among them people who have never sung before, so this is real “Gareth Malone” stuff.’
Performances are being staged daily from this Sunday until Good Friday.
Performed largely outside, the Manx Passion will be shaped by the weather, but whatever the weather the performances will go ahead. Mrs Palmer Sayer said: ‘I’m used to directing performances in the dramatic cliff-side setting of the Minack open-air theatre in Cornwall, so coping with the Isle of Man weather won’t be a problem.’
Manx Passion performances take place: Sunday, 2pm: Creation, Nativity and Passion – Rushen Abbey; Monday, 6.30pm: Creation – Mooragh Park, Ramsey; Tuesday, 6.30pm: Nativity, Church of St John the Baptist, St John’s; Wednesday, 6.30pm: Creation, King William’s College; Thusday, 6.30pm Nativity, Kirk Maughold; Good Friday, noon: The Passion, Peel Castle; Good Friday, 6pm: The Passion, Church of St Anthony, Onchan.
Mrs Palmer Sayer explained: ‘We wanted the Manx Passion to be an all-island production so looked at lots of different sites and settled on a mix of locations. Some, but not all, are based around a church. In Ramsey we’re using Mooragh Park so we’ll be introducing humour into the Noah scenes where we can use the children’s water feature to great effect and will be setting off fireworks from the island in the middle of the lake.
‘Rushen Abbey affords tremendous opportunities to stage a great promenade piece of theatre and I just had to use Peel Castle as one of the locations. It’s a wonderfully dramatic setting where the Passion will take place with the cross raised and set against the skyline.’
Island of Culture 2014 director Michael Lees said he was delighted that Jan accepted the Isle of Man Arts Council’s commission to direct the Passion.
‘We’re also fortunate to have Cyd Waters as our musical director, who has extensive experience in community projects, and the talented Tim Price who has written a wonderful score,’ said Mr Lees.
Manx-born Tim Price, 23, from Ramsey, who holds a Masters degree in composition from the University of Bangor, said: ‘My approach to composing the score is founded on my Christian faith. The music’s very much been shaped by my understanding and interpretation of key events in the Bible, such as the Crucifixion, Creation and Nativity. But at the same time I’ve been mindful to introduce an element of drama that doesn’t overpower the performance as a whole.’
Tickets, priced £5 for adults and £1 for under-18s (under-12s to be accompanied by an adult) are available from the Welcome Centre at the Sea Terminal or from the Villa/Gaiety box office, call 600555 or go onling to www.villagaiety.com (Peel Castle not suitable for the disabled. No formal seating at Peel Castle or Rushen Abbey; audiences may sit on the grass).
The Island of Culture 2014 is a year-long celebration of the island’s talent and creativity, led by the Isle of Man Arts Council.