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Growling at an Angel Ė My Neighbourhood Passion Play


My dog Sheba doesnít like Easter. Thatís when her daily walk at nearby Ruffey Lake Park gets disrupted by the annual Passion Play thatís staged there.


Iíve already written about the play, and you can see photos at its own website. This is a magnificent event, unique in Australia, and, amazingly, itís just a five-minute walk from my home.


Local businessman Pat La Manna explains candidly on the playís website how it all started:


In 1996, during a Good Friday service at my local church, I kept reflecting on the Oberammergau Passion Play performance that occurs every 10 years. For some inexplicable reason, the thoughts that went through my mind seemed to focus on that event to such an extent that I was completely overwhelmed by the experience.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that a similar enactment of the life of Jesus Christ could be undertaken right here in Australia. The more I considered this idea, the more I knew it was the right thing to do.

The inspiration I had received provided the catalyst for initiating the first step in what was to become one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. The task ahead was enormous, but, somehow within a few months, all the pieces seemed to fall into place as if by divine intervention. As a result, the first Passion Play enactment took place successfully in 1997.


The setting is typically Australian Ė a beautiful, sprawling park with eucalyptus and gum trees, the occasional kookaburra and cockatoo, and a wetlands area with native lake birds.


Yet somehow it is all transformed into Judea, with Roman centurions strolling around, while fishermen keep watch over their nets and chat.


And angels lurk among the trees.


Part of the magic is that the three-hour play moves around the park Ė rather than being confined to an auditorium - with the spectators following. It is hard, at the end, not to feel powerfully moved.


But not Sheba.


Last year, she became agitated to find Jesus being baptized in the deep part of the River Jordan Ė sorry, Ruffey Creek Ė where she always takes a swim. This year I had to restrain her from menacing an angel. Then she started barking and barking at two centurions engaged in a sword fight. Next year Iíll leave her at home.


April 22nd, 2003