The Narrow Road Virtual Tour Part 3

Who are you and who did you play in The Narrow Road?

Hi, I’m Simon Rodda and I played Jesus in The Narrow Road. 

What is your favourite part of the play?

When Jesus is praying, talking to his father, in the garden of Gethsemane. The gospel account tells us that all the disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying ‘in agony’, so we have to use our imagination about most of what Jesus was saying.  Perfect for an actor, of course, and hugely helped by the language Paul Birch uses to paint vivid pictures of what might have gone through Jesus’s mind in the hours before he was arrested.

The speech starts with the famous cry to God: ‘Father, take this cup away from me,’ but the speech is then peppered with stories from the Old Testament (the ‘sacrifice’ of Abraham’s son Isaac) and what Jesus may himself have witnessed as a child growing up under Roman rule. The night in Gethsemane, where a man is sweating blood while praying to his Father in heaven, combines Jesus’s humanity and his divinity most starkly.

JESUS:       We worked, Joseph and I. His door always open. His tools always allowed in my hands. But…one day the door was shut. My mother pleading with the soldiers outside. Joseph arguing inside with a man whose face I could not see. There were threats. My mother dragged by her hair. The shouting stopped and my father put to work. No scripture passed his lips as he shaped the beams of the crosses. The crosses bound and shaped for the road that leads to this City of Peace.

© 2010 Paul Birch

 

What did you learn during the process?
I found this challenge of playing a character that is both God and man gave me insights into what Jesus was facing and also lessons about my own humanity. The following are a few lines of thought I pondered on as I tried to create Jesus on stage: someone who has complete authority yet is wonderfully personable; a man who works miracles but needs his time away from the crowd; a man committed to obeying the will of God but who knows he still has a choice.

What made you laugh most in rehearsals?
On what turned out to be our last day, once we had been told that the tour couldn’t go ahead, we all agreed that we would continue to rehearse and perform the show in the evening for a small audience, including those that had put so much work into getting this show off the ground. The show went very well and was a privilege to perform. However, after the crucifixion scene, as we had rehearsed many times before, I got carried off stage by my colleagues.  This time, my head smacked on a wooden step and made a booming sound. I was fine but, perhaps owing to the heightened situation or emotion, I couldn’t stop laughing (as quietly as I could) during a solemn moment of reflection. It felt like a fitting prelude to the resurrection scene!

The Narrow Road Virtual Tour Part 2

Miriam Swainsbury answers some questions about working as an actor on The Narrow Road.     

Who are you and who did you play in The Narrow Road?

Hi, I’m Miriam, alongside a modern pilgrim in the Holy Land, I played the disciple Thaddeus, Mother, Old Shepherd, Demon-Possessed Woman, Sana (the woman at the well), Guard and the Gethsemane Angel.

What is your favourite part of the play?

It’s arriving at the river Jordan, the baptisms and then the boat scene on the sea of Galilee. For the travelling pilgrims, this is a chance to enjoy the cool, refreshing water after a long trek. It is also the most joyful sequence – as the disciples watch Jesus heal sick people, tell a parable about fishing and release a demon-possessed woman back to her true self, to peace.

 

JESUS:              I want to give you rest. You are a fisherman, Peter. As you say, good with your hands. And I will make you fishers of men. Will you follow me?

PETER:              (Excited) I will, Rabbi.

JESUS:               Then come to me. Take my yoke upon you. Learn from me. I am not so terrifying, am I?

PETER:              You? (Laughs) No.

PETER is baptized.

JESUS:               This water is your Jordan. I am your land. I am your inheritance. I am your promise. I am your rest. Do you understand this, Peter?

PETER:              My head doesn’t but my gut does. That’s what usually serves me best.

© 2010 Paul Birch

 

What did you learn during the process?

I learnt the value of being open and adaptable. I came back to this production for the third time and yet it was so different because of the impact made by our two new cast members. That’s half the cast!  Each actor brings something distinctive and that keeps the whole performance alive.

 

I also learnt how much the times we live in affect the poignancy of the work we do. When we performed our first and last show to a small audience at Friargate Theatre the day before the coronavirus shutdown, a lot of the text suddenly felt incredibly relevant to these unsettling times we are all faced with. It was also threaded through with hope.

What made you laugh most in rehearsals?

A lot of things. I am guilty of getting the giggles quite easily in rehearsal, so it is quite hard to choose what made me laugh the most. There was one afternoon when we were working on the Last Supper, when everything made me laugh. Breaking custard cream biscuits instead of bread made it very hard to keep a straight face!

 

The Narrow Road Virtual Tour Part 1

 
We start with a post from the director, Erin Burbridge:

Even after directing the 2019 version, this production felt completely different. I was delighted to discover much more about each scene and character, working with four actors who were very generous with their ideas.  They also nodded patiently and went along gracefully with each bizarre metaphor I used to inspire their performances or just to create sense of ‘play’ in the rehearsal room. We had fun.

What’s the story?

The Road is a journey through contemporary Israel/Palestine made by three pilgrims who encounter some of the events of the life of Jesus as they reach the places where these took place. The road is the journey through the varied landscapes of the Holy Land but it is also the person of Jesus himself, as he lives out and marks out the road which he calls his disciples to walk with him, both then and now.

The journey tracks right back to a pregnant mother under the stars on the road to Bethlehem.  It winds its way on towards Jesus’s encounters with individuals from different walks of life, to ministry alongside his disciples in Galilee, to Gethsemane, his trial before Pilate, to the crucifixion. Finally the play ends on the road to Emmaus.

Though we know nothing about their faith or background, the three pilgrims are engaging figures.  We see them interact viscerally with the landscape around them and with the intense events into which they are plunged. They represent us, the audience, trying to make sense of this journey.  I loved working with Miriam, John and Johnny as they morphed seamlessly from one person to another.

Your favourite part of the play?

Lots of bits obviously – but Miriam and Simon’s playing of the scene between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes alone in the heat of the day to Jacob’s well, often had me fighting back a few tears. The scene begins in a tense atmosphere – the woman is shocked by this unprecedented approach from a Jewish rabbi making conversation with her. Despite her sharp, nervous responses, Jesus’s offer to her of living water remains clear and uncompromising. As the scene concludes, when she realises who she’s talking to, the sense of release, of jubilation was infectious. It swept me up every time!

SANA           You have nothing to draw water with.

SHE RELENTS AND GIVES HIM A DRINK

JESUS         I have you. (He drinks) Thank you. It is good water. Sweet. But anyone who drinks this will be thirsty again. Yet, whoever I give water to, Samaritan or Jew, will not thirst again because my water becomes a spring, becomes a well, becomes life itself. Eternal life in a dying place.

SANA           Sir…give me this water. Please, I…I don’t want to come back.

                   …..

                   You are a prophet! My people worshipped on this mountain. I am forbidden to go to the Temple. Jerusalem. I cannot follow you there!

JESUS         A time is coming when true worshippers will worship in a place called ‘spirit and truth’. This temple has no walls.  This is what God wants.  This is the road he offers.

SANA           I know the Messiah is coming. To make this happen.

JESUS         You have faith. Salvation. The world will be changed.

SANA           You told me everything I ever did. Tell me when he is coming.

JESUS         Here. Now. Speaking honestly with you.

© 2010 Paul Birch

 

What did you learn in this process?

One thing that was very profound for me was exploring the humanity of Jesus alongside his divinity as Son of God. The play introduces Jesus in the temple as a thirteen year-old boy, taking two elders to task on a technicality of the Law about resurrection. It’s a funny, warm and engaging scene – a brilliant way to introduce us to Jesus at an age when he is still wide-eyed and youthful. Simon’s fantastic portrayal of this moment produced more laughter than we were expecting at our only performance!

 

What made you laugh the most during rehearsals?

All four actors have a passion for tea that I just don’t share.  I’ll drink tea if I’m cold.  The extraordinary excitement on everyone’s faces when tea was mentioned… by the Jordan, on the sea of Galilee, in Capernaum, or wherever… gave me some good giggles.

Easter Resources for use at home

All’s Well That Ends Well- Production Pictures

All’s Well has begun and the production has been delighting audiences with its wit and hilarity. The production pictures, courtesy of Tom Jackson, are too beautiful not to share with you. Here are some of our favourites:

 

Easter Resources for 2019

Add Drama to Easter is a delightful follow-on from our successful Christmas resource, Add Drama to Christmas (do you sense a theme?)! This new downloadable resource has ten classic Riding Lights sketches which spotlight significant personal encounters with the world-turned-upside-down story of Easter… encounters with Jesus that were life-changing.

These sketches have different styles and energy – they are moving, punchy, sometimes humorous and give a few unexpected perspectives on the familiar gospel events…

A tax-collector dishes out generous rebates, the owner of the Palm Sunday donkey feels somehow complicit in Jesus’s death, Barabbas watches a man die on a cross that was made for him, a thief finds the doors to Paradise unlocked, a private investigator is challenged to locate a missing corpse, daffodils discuss the likelihood of life after death…

All these pieces are tried, tested and easy to stage with a few enthusiastic actors and readers. Some have appeared in print before and have been updated, others are released here for the first time.


Keep watching for more collections of sketches to be made available in the coming months.

Get our Easter resources from the shop…

Summer Theatre School 2019 Book Now

Youth Theatre: Spring Applications Open

After a brilliant production of Murder By Poe from our Senior Youth Theatre, we’re delighted to say that Applications are now open for next term’s Youth Theatre.

The really exciting news, is that Acting Up! are expanding – in size and ambition!

This term, as well as welcoming new members, they will be trialling a new format. The first hour of each session will focus on our younger members as they learn new theatre skills through fun games, improvisation and exercises, discovering how to be an acting ensemble. The last hour will focus on the older age group as they take these same skills deeper and explore writing and devising new work… And there will be plenty of opportunities for joint-creativity, socialising and sharing work between these two sessions as all ages join together.

Our Seniors will be taking inspiration from great writers such as Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan-Doyle, and Douglas Adams as they devise and stage their very own Murder Mystery.

Meanwhile Juniors have a production term and will be staging a fantastic
adaptation of Oscar’s Wilde’s The Star-Child. (Performance dates are 4th and 5th of April 2019 – get them in the diary!)

You can find our more information on the Youth Theatre section of the website and apply online here.

Christmas Resources for 2018

Want to get a bit of Christmas preparation crossed off the ‘to do’ list? We’ve got just the thing with our newly available selection of Christmas scripts for 2018.

These are nine classic Riding Lights sketches, plus three carol service templates, highlighting the Christmas story from various angles. They’re humorous, punchy and give a few unexpected perspectives on the familiar gospel events.

…What were Joseph’s feelings about Mary’s pregnancy? The Son of God escapes to Egypt as a refugee. A remarkable birth draws people of faith from other cultures. A Bethlehem innkeeper with a night to remember. Herald and guardian angels in overdrive…

All these pieces are tried, tested and easy to stage with a few enthusiastic actors and readers. What’s more, included with the download is the licence to perform each of the pieces.

Get our Christmas resources from the shop…

Gospel Street: Tour Dates

Good News! We are excited to announce our performance dates for the tour of GOSPEL STREET this autumn.

It’s our second year touring this phenomenal show, and this time round the tour is even bigger with just under 40 performances between the 27th September and the 24th November. There are familiar venues and new ones, and we’re even getting over to Northern Ireland, following in the footsteps of this year’s Roughshod company.

We’re delighted to be back on the road, taking the dynamic and accessible version of the Gospel to communities round the UK. Using theatre, comedy and spoken word this is a breath-taking ride through all the important issues of life, death… and miraculous street food. All asking “what would you do if Jesus turned up on your street?”.

Want to find your nearest show? Just take a look at the map below…

Tour Dates

 

Date Venue  Tickets  Book Online
Thursday 22 November (7.30pm) Ray Presbyterian Church
Donations welcome
Box Office: 074915 7716
Please contact the venue for tickets
Friday 23 November (7.30pm) Holywood Baptist Church
N. Ireland, 
Donations welcome
Box Office: 028 9042 1519
Please contact the venue for tickets