|What is a Passion Play?|
A passion play is a religious drama depicting Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Passion plays originated in the Middle Ages, when they were performed as part of the celebration of Good Friday. They are still performed in parts of Europe, notably Oberammergau in southern Germany, where they have been staged every decade since 1634.
Manchester Passion will be a contemporary retelling of the last days of Jesus' life using popular music from the cream of Manchester bands, including Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Oasis and M People.
This major Good Friday event - being shown live on BBC Three - will include a procession of the cross through the city centre, before the final scenes of the Crucifixion in Albert Square.
Mixing the words of the Bible with versions of classic Mancunian songs, producers hope that this modern account of the last days of Christ will appeal to a new audience.
The crowd in Albert Square will be able to sing along to some of the finest music to come out of Manchester in the past 25 years, with words being displayed on a giant screen. Songs include:
- Jesus sings You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side (Morrissey)
- Mary sings Cast No Shadow (Oasis)
- Jesus sings Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) at the Last Supper
- Mary sings Search For A Hero (M People)
- Judas sings Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (The Smiths) as he is about to betray Jesus
- Jesus sings Sit Down (James) to the sleeping disciples
- Jesus and Judas sing Blue Monday (New Order)
- Peter sings I Am The Resurrection (The Stone Roses) when he betrays Jesus
- Mary sings Angels (Robbie Williams)
- Jesus and Pontius Pilate sing Wonderwall (Oasis)
- Mary sings Sunshine After The Rain (Elkie Brooks)
Reports that Mary Magdelene will sing a version of the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), have been dismissed.
Jesus and his disciples: the cast
The part of Jesus is being played by actor Darren Morfitt (Dog Soldiers); Primal Scream vocalist, Denise Johnson, has been confirmed to take the role of the Virgin Mary. Tim Booth, lead singer of James, plays Judas and Nicholas Bailey (Dr Antony Trueman in EastEnders) plays Peter. The whole event will be narrated by actor Keith Allen (Bodies, 24 Hour Party People)
Albert Square will provide the main focus of the hour-long performance where a 16-strong orchestra will accompany the songs, and a giant screen will relay scenes from across the city.
A new audience
The show is being made by the BBC's Classical Music TV department which has been responsible for Proms in the Park, and follows the success of Flashmob: The Opera - a live opera event staged among commuters in London.
BBC Commissioning Editor for Arts, Music and Religion Adam Kemp says the corporation are "excited by the possibility of introducing a new audience to the rich history of the Passion Plays.
"We're looking forward to involving the people of Manchester in this moving live event and hopefully encouraging them to look on familiar songs with fresh eyes."
Church groups have been consulted about the programme, and Christians across Manchester are expected to play their part in the production.
Church of England spokeswoman Gillian Oliver said: "We are working with the BBC on this and are very pleased to be taking the good news of the gospel onto the streets of Manchester.
"If anything, something like this can translate the old story into new terms."
Manchester Passion: also shown live on BBC Three on Good Friday from 9pm.