'Not what they expected': Hornchurch Passion Play portrays Jesus's grisly Easter crucifixion after two-year delay

The Hornchurch Passion play returned after delays due to Covid

The Hornchurch Passion play returned after delays due to Covid - Credit: Ken Mears

Hornchurch Passion Play's return to the green by Queen’s Theatre went “exceedingly well” after a forced hiatus due to Covid, says the production’s director. 

Normally held every five years, the play - which is a dramatisation of Jesus’s final days performed across four stages - had to take an additional two-year hiatus, meaning there was plenty riding on this year’s act. 

Simon Pugsley, who took charge for the first time following the retirement of long-time director Kevin Walsh, said the performances went “really, really well”. 

The play had around four thousand attendees over the three nights, plus its cast of around 60

The play had around 4,000 attendees over the three nights, plus its cast of around 60 - Credit: Ken Mears

Over the three nights (April 15 to 17), Simon said he estimates around 4,000 people came to watch the action, in addition to the 60 or so cast members. 

This is down on previous years, but Simon puts that down to a combination of people being unsure about attending large events and others going on holiday. 

Thankful for what turned out to be a balmy weekend weather-wise, Simon said: “I am going to miss it, but I am very glad it’s over.” 

He said he has “every intention to do it again”, and is hopeful he will be doing it “for the next 20 years”. 

The play follows the story of Jesus's final days

The play follows the story of Jesus's final days - Credit: Ken Mears

A scene from one of the four stages used throughout the production

A scene from one of the four stages used throughout the production - Credit: Ken Mears

Organised by Churches Together in Havering, a consortium of around 30-35 churches, Simon said his involvement is his way of supporting the local faith community. 

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“It was my contribution to the church,” he said. 

The play has already received some positive feedback from audience members, with lots of pictures being sent through of the performances.

Simon said the Hornchurch Passion Play deliberately does not shy away from the more gruesome parts of the crucifixion and that it often has an impact on those attending. 

The play includes the portrayal of Jesus's crucifixion

The play included the portrayal of Jesus's crucifixion - Credit: Ken Mears

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre - Credit: Ken Mears

“I think the main thing people think when they come along is they think it will be a lovely average church play, and they think 'whoa, this is not what I had expected,'” he said. 

Given everything, Simon said he is “very happy” with how the Easter weekend went, and is hopeful that those watching enjoyed the play after seven years’ waiting. 

“We had a long delay for various reasons, and I hope people remember going in 2022.”

The Last Supper is just one of the famous scenes recreated

The Last Supper is just one of the famous scenes recreated - Credit: Ken Mears

In all, Simon said he is “very happy” with how the Easter weekend went

In all, Simon said he is 'very happy' with how the Easter weekend went - Credit: Ken Mears

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre 2022

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre - Credit: Ken Mears

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre

Jesus's crucifixion in the Passion Play 2022 - Credit: Ken Mears

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre

There were about 60 cast members to tell the story of Jesus's crucifixion - Credit: Ken Mears

The Hornchurch Passion play being performed outside of the Queen's Theatre

About 4,000 people attended - Credit: Ken Mears