- London square attracts thousands to watch passion play on Good Friday
- Violent spectacle shows trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus
- Christ played by actor James Burke-Dunsmore, who specialises in the role
By Hugo Gye
PUBLISHED: 16:33, 29 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:43, 29 March 2013
A group of actors today marked Good Friday by re-enacting the crucifixion of Christ in a passion play in London’s Trafalgar Square.
The square was packed with thousands of onlookers commemorating the day Jesus is believed to have been killed by the Romans, two day before miraculously rising from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Brisk temperatures did not deter the audience from experiencing the time-honoured tradition of the passion play.
Crowds: Thousands turned out to watch the play in the heart of central London
Beginnings: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey to a welcome of palm leaves
Trial: Jesus is shown being judged by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate
Crowds: Actors mingled with the audience as the play built to its inevitable conclusion
King of Kings: The 41-year-old actor bears a striking physical resemblance to traditional depictions of Jesus
Dramatic performances of the last hours of Jesus’ life are a key part of the Easter celebration in many European countries, and this year worshippers from around the world have been pictured re-enacting the events of Good Friday.
The tradition has been less strong in Britain but has seen a resurgence in recent years, with more than a dozen performances taking place in the UK today.
The play was put on twice in Trafalgar Square by the Wintershall Players, a group based in Surrey and founded by enthusiast Peter Hutley.
Torment: The play follows Christ as he drags the cross through Jerusalem wearing a crown of thorns
Taunts: Jesus is goaded by the Romans as he drags his cross on his way to be crucified
Violent: The story was told in brutal honesty with shocking levels of blood and gore
Graphic: Passion plays are supposed to remind Christians of how Jesus suffered for their sins
O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.
The role of Jesus was taken by James Burke-Dunsmore, a 41-year-old actor who has used his striking looks to carve out a career niche playing Christ.
He has played the part nearly 60 times all around the country – and before each performance, he weaves his own crown of thorns.
Adding to the physical toll of playing Jesus is the heavy cross he carried around Trafalgar Square today, made from two real tree trunks.
Past performances have been even more painful, however – once an amateur actor in Leicester hit him so hard with a mallet while miming driving the nails in that Mr Burke-Dunsmore had to go to hospital with fractured ankles.
Although the actor insists he does not suffer from delusions of grandeur while portraying his illustrious subject, he has in the past channelled the Christian spirit to get out of sticky situations.
Mr Blake-Dunsmore once walked past a group of warring drunks in Edinburgh while wearing his Jesus costume – and stopped to tell them the parable of the prodigal son.
Tradition: The crucifixion is overseen by Roman soldier at the foot of Nelson’s Column
Giving up the ghost: The grand setting was well suited to the epic storyline
Screams: Mr Burke-Dunsmore put his full effort in the dramatic performance on Good Friday, left, and, right, the play was performed in a bitterly cold Trafalger Square amidst freezing Easter weather
But instead of turning on him, the men enthusiastically acted out parts in the story and insisted he finish the tale.
Today’s play featured the judgement of Jesus in front of Pontius Pilate, followed by the journey through the streets of Jerusalem wearing the crown of thorns and carrying the cross.
The dramatic highlight of the performance was the crucifixion itself, when Christ and two thieves were strung up on crosses with nails in their hands and feet.
Spectacle: The play took place against a background of many of London’s most famous tourist sights
Remembrance: A huge crowd gathered for the dramatic reenactment in Trafalgar Square
Epic tale: Re-enactments of the last hours of Jesus’ life are a key part of Easter celebrations in many European countries
Performance: The Trafalgar Square drama was one of 15 passion plays taking place around Britain
Passion: James Burke-Dunsmore playing Jesus in the passion play in Trafalgar Square today, left, and, right, the moment Jesus’ body is cradled by his distraught mother Mary after his death