Any Given Friday (part I)

I’m currently creating a Lenten reflection that will take place in Durham Cathedral. I was approached by the Warden of my college to produce a reflective journey around the cathedral looking at the story of Easter. After a wrecky of the site (which is such an inspiring place, full of atmosphere and holiness) with the Warden and a fellow student who is to bring the choral music for the evening, it was decided that we should have stations with characters who witnessed the passion of Christ from the periphery. We discussed the use of subversive narrative and exploring the theme of ‘missing’ the importance of Good Friday.

On reflection of this theme I remembered the dramatic poems of Michael Justin Davis in his book, ‘To The Cross: A sequence of dramatic poems’. I used a selection of these for a dramatic reading on Good Friday, last year and they are beautifully crafted. I went through and found some of the missed characters of the story; An old woman, a soldier, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea. The characters who caught glimpses of the story but of whom we know little about. On reading them, however, they are too poetic in structure and haven’t got the human element of prose narrative. There is also a character who I would like to look at and reflect on, Pilate’s Wife for whom no poem was written.

There are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about:

Firstly, the space in Durham cathedral is amazing; full of wide, grand, epic space and intimate, hidden, knooks and crannies. it has imposing columns and vaulting ceiling. I want to capture all of this grandness and juxtapose it with intimate moments, the epic implications of Christ’s death on the cross and the intimate personal side of the story as well. How do you use a holy space like a cathedral or church and keep the integrity of the space? In worship, how do you have intimate moments with God in epic spaces and how do you have souring praise and adoration in an intimate space? I think this is where theatre can aid the worship and ministry of the church.

Secondly, The use of actors. As I am training in an academic, theological environment, my peers and colleagues are not trained or experienced in performance. This is a great opportunity to get new people to enter into our community and engage with this topic which may or may not be familiar to them. The Christian community would be blessed by the skill and talents of the performers and the performers would be blessed by the presence of God. How, as a director and writer, do you create time and space for actors of a non christian/church background to engage with the message of Christ in a sensitive and faithful way? Where does ministry fit in with theatre and the relationship between Director and actor?

Thirdly (and finally), I’ve been reflecting on where theatre fits into the church, liturgically. Usually, drama is securely locked into the ministry of the Word and telling the story of God. this is fine but where does theatre and directed and constructed drama fit into worship and sacrament. This performance in the cathedral is an act of worship. Is witnessing and reflecting on the stories surrounding the passion of Christ worship? Is there a need for response and in what form will that take? If this were a service of communion, where would it fit and how could we shape the liturgy to fit into the narrative structure of the piece?

I’ve sent off a proposal to the Warden and await her thoughts and reflections on my concept. I will describe the outline in detail when things are set in stone.