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Chester City Passion moves the crowds on Good Friday

Thousands turn out in Chester city centre to watch the Easter Story played out before their eyes

Young and old, Christian and non-Christian were spell-bound by a powerful performance of the Easter Story told in Chester city centre on Good Friday in front of thousands of people.

Nick Sherratt reprised the role of Jesus as the Chester City Passion returned in a tale of betrayal and suffering that ends in Christ’s brutal death on the cross prior to his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Produced by Chester Mystery Plays , working with Theatre in the Quarter , the entertaining, evocative and moving spectacle involved a cast of around 100 people with many familiar faces including Chester Cathedral’s very own heritage manager Nick Fry as Pontius Pilate.

Town crier David Mitchell acted as narrator. Even the Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster , made a brief cameo appearance.

Commissioned by Churches Together and Link Up, this extraordinary performance, featuring drama and music, was directed by Matt Baker , the musical director and composer for Chester Mystery Plays since 2003.

Matt, a cast member and accordion player on the day, was ‘thrilled’ to be working again with the town crier, Karamba Samba band and Roman Tours.

He said: “We learned a lot from last year’s performance. This time we used the Rows far more, and whenever we could we raised the actors so they could be seen and heard by more people.”

“Thousands of people were able to enjoy this unique experience – the dramatisation of the last days of Jesus’s life was powerful, emotional and compelling,” added Jo Sykes, chairman of Chester Mystery Plays. “It was a wonderful curtain-raiser to next year’s main production which will again be in the nave of Chester Cathedral.”

Chester City Passion 2017 being performed in the city centre on Good Friday.

The action begins under Eastgate Clock as Jesus makes a triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday accompanied by his followers and a donkey – believed to be a symbol of peace. But the mood soon changes as Jesus overturns the tables of the money lenders in the Cleansing of the Temple performed on Eastgate Row with the crowd captivated by the intensity of the scene.

Jesus hosts the Last Supper high on the row where he shares a meal with his apostles and predicts betrayal by one of their number, Judas. And as the action moves to The Cross, we see the arrest of Jesus by Roman guards in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately after Judas kisses him on the cheek.

Chester City Passion 2017 being performed in the city centre on Good Friday.

His trial is held in Town Hall Square presided over by Pontius Pilate, where we witness Jesus being tortured before being sentenced to death.

Accompanied by guards and with excruciating pain etched on his face, he struggles past the crowd before we hear the horrific sound of nails being driven through his flesh and he is crucified in front of the west door of Chester Cathedral before a distraught Mary Magdalene.

Chester City Passion 2017 being performed in the city centre on Good Friday.

The beautiful singing voice of nine-year-old Hammond School pupil Tayler Jefferson added poignancy to the moment through her rendition of a specially composed piece.

Christ's lifeless body was then carried into the cathedral through the west door as the Bishop of Chester, dressed in white robes, looked on.

When the cast took to the stage, the enthusiastic round of applause told you everything you needed to know about how the performance had touched everyone present on a day when the forecast rain thankfully held off.

Chester City Passion 2017 being performed in the city centre on Good Friday.

The Chester City Passion is a collaborative effort with professional and community artists working with the churches to celebrate and tell the Easter Story following weeks of hard work.

Chester Mystery Plays takes place in the nave of the cathedral in June/July next year. For details of an exclusive ticket offer, click here.

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