Passion play for our times takes to streets of Ballyfermot
Easter story reshaped into social drama that addresses key challenges for society
Roxanna Nic Liam, star of ‘The Passion Project’ in rehearsal with Brokentalkers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
We live in a world where the relevance of messages of faith are regularly doubted. Too often stories from the pages of the Bible seem remote to the real world in which we live, work, love and wonder.
In Christianity, the change moment is not Christ’s birth but rather His Easter rebirth. From the moment of birth, we are on a journey. The Easter message of Christ captures the essence of that journey.
It strengthens us in the knowledge that we can always create new beginnings, that in every “death” there is the potential of resurrection.
The example of Christ speaks also to the importance of service and sacrifice for the good of others. That is the Easter message remembered from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
Communities are made up of individuals and like individuals they have their journey. They are born, they struggle, they succeed, they bond, they die, and they can resurrect, becoming newborn and beginning a new journey for a new generation and a new time.
The communities of Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard, like many in Dublin and beyond, face social and economic challenges. They exist in a world where values change, resources are limited and there is no certainty. It is important, therefore, to foster new departures that help reawaken a community’s spirit of service, action and hope.
Cultural expression can be a key to this awakening. Cultural expression that is rooted in a timeless message, refocused on modern challenges and issues, and shaped in partnership with the community itself, can stimulate new energy within a community.
The Passion Project, which will journey through the streets of Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard on Saturday and Sunday (April 8th and 9th), is one such cultural expression.
Harnessing the Easter story, the street drama was forged through a series of workshops organised with local groups around issues that impact on them. (www.thepassionproject.ie)
The Passion Project addresses Easter themes of, sacrifice, resurrection and hope. The conflict between the new vision of Christ and the vested interests of the elite of His day is retold in a story of a young homeless woman who challenges the plans of a property developer to build local amenities for profit.
The story unfolds around the persecution of this female activist leader , involving an eviction, a trial , a “crucifixion” and a resurrection of hope and community solidarity.
The dramatic story will include a session focused on actions to renew and revitalise community leadership, and a concert that celebrates the achievements and success of the community.
Hundreds will participate in the fusion of drama, music, ritual and debate. In a tangible expression of social solidarity, the proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Simon Community.
The connection between ritual and social drama has long been recognised. In the shaping of this two-day journey, the ritual story of the Passion is reshaped into a social drama that addresses key conflicts and challenges in how we, as a society, can create the future.
This project had many parents. The idea originated with an individual, was championed up by a social enterprise, was embraced by city council, was supported by the local church, and was professionalised by Dublin’s Culture Connects. But most importantly it was shaped and created by Brokentalkers Theatre Company and the local community.
If communities like Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard are to grow and prosper, they will need champions. They will need leaders who have the wisdom to see beyond the present, the faith to imagine the future, the courage to fight for that future and the selfless spirit of service to place the wellbeing of others above personal advancement.
By seeing the relevance of the truths found within our heritage of religious and secular literature, such leaders can shape cultural events to renew the spirit of action and hope.
The story of Easter gave birth to a new world order, a new set of values and of hopes. Regardless of the human failure over centuries to live to those values and hopes, they remain relevant in today’s very different social landscape.
“In the tragedy of every sunset
There lies the promise of the dawn”
Peter Finnegan is the Dublin City Council Area Manager