Passions run high for Laois village’s Easter play

Three-hour production of story being staged for sixth time in Ballylinan

The small village of Ballylinan Co. Laois hosts a mammoth three hour production of the Easter story involving 200 people aged from 4 to 80. Running until Good Friday the production features local people of all faiths and none. Video: Bryan O'Brien


Passions have been running so high for Ballylinan’s Passion Play that an extra performance has been added on Thursday.

This is the sixth time the people of the small Laois village and surrounding areas have mounted the three-hour production and it is always sold out. The retelling of the Easter story starts with Jesus arriving in Jerusalem and ends with his resurrection. Travel agents, farmers, healthcare workers, teachers are among the cast members and all the local men are sporting impressive beards to add an authentic feel to the production.

The show also includes a few minor miracles including rain on the stage during the Crucifixion, and a donkey which enters and exits the stage with the aplomb of a Broadway veteran. The latest run opened last Friday and will end, appropriately, on Good Friday.

Anna Marie McHugh, who plays Mary Magdalene, says the show has attracted audience members from as far as Sligo and west Cork, the UK and even the US.

She says local people are more enthusiastic than ever in getting involved in the production. “We’ve nearly 200 people involved, between cast and crew, ranging in age from four to over 80,” she said. “Over half the cast is under 40, which is amazing.”

Rehearsals began before Christmas and were stepped up to three nights a week in the run-up to the opening. She says people from all faiths and none are involved. “They call it the greatest story ever told and it is really a phenomenal story, whether you are an atheist or whatever you are.”

It is based on the passion play staged every 10 years in Oberammergau in Germany. That has been running since 1634, after the villagers promised they would produce a play depicting the story of Jesus if God spared them from the war and bubonic plague that was raging around them.

The people of Ballylinan may not have had to make a pact with God to avoid bubonic plague but it looks like their version of the passion play will run and run.