Act 4 - Death

The Cheltenham Passion Play
Good Friday 2000
Act 4 - Death
The Calvary scene will take place on the lawn behind and to the side of the Town Hall - at the end of the main pathway across the Imperial Gardens.  As the procession arrives - the execution is taking place - the Centurion and his soldiers simply get on with the job in hand - there is a minimum of dialogue - confined really to their own conversation.  They offer the three a  mild painkiller - myrrh mixed with wine - the other two accept - Jesus refuses it.  It is their job ... they are getting on with it.  After they have finished nailing Christ and the two thieves to the cross they while away the time  by throwing dice for his clothes.  Above his head they have posted the charge ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jewish People’ The Centurion stands on guard he watches.  The two false witnesses are there - they taunt Jesus.  The religious leaders - and the religious guard - they taunt him too.  Some by-standers - maybe from one of the street theatre groups earlier on get him something to drink but then don’t give it him.  His mother is there with John the favourite disciple and with Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene - the group of women include the woman who was healed who later anointed Jesus - the Samaritan woman - the mother of Jesus.  The women with the banners make a big semi-circle around the scaffolding for the cross establishing a back drop for the whole scene.[1]
False Witness1             jeering, shaking their heads in mock lament You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days - so show us your stuff!
False Witness 2            Save yourself!
False Witness 1            If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross.
Christ                           Eli, Eli, my God, my God, why have you abandoned me.
Bystander 1                 He’s calling for Elijah.
One of the bystanders runs and gets a sponge soaked in sour wine - the sour wine that had previously been offered to Jesus - he lifts it on a stick so he can drink.  The others joke ...
Bystander 2                 Don’t be in such a hurry.  Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.
Religious Guard            poking fun at him He saved others - he can’t save himself.
Annas                          King of Israel is he?  Then let him get down from that cross.
Religious Guard 2         Let’s see him save himself!
Religious Guard 1         We’ll all become believers then!
Annas                          `He was so sure of God - well, let him rescue his ‘son’ now - if he wants him.
Religious Guard 1         He said he was the Son of God didn’t he!
Religious Guard 2         The Messiah-King of God - ha!  The Chosen - ha!
Soldiers                       So you’re King of the Jewish People - save yourself!
Christ                           Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.
Criminal 1                    Some Messiah you are!  Save yourself!  Save us!
Criminal 2                    Stop your shouting!  We deserve this, but not him - he did nothing to deserve this.
                                    Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.
Christ                           I will remember.  Today you will be with me in paradise.

There is a movement through the crowd - Jesus’  mother and John the disciple are  trying to get through.
Guard 1                       Make a path - someone wants to get through.
Guard 2                       It’s his mother.
Religious Guard            And one of his disciples.
They come forward up the steps of the scaffolding to the foot of the cross
Christ                           Woman, here is your son.
                                    Here is your mother.
Christ                           It’s done ... complete.
Christ                           Father, I place my life into your hands.
At this Christ dies.  The soldiers take the two thieves down - they act out that they are breaking their legs to ensure that they are dead.  This hastens their death.  When they get to Jesus, they see that he is already dead, so they don’t break his legs.  The Centurion stabs him in the side with his spear- blood and water flow out.  Then the Centurion steps back ... he is moved by the things he has heard and by what he has seen.
Centurion                     Truly, this is the Son of God!
The women stand back to one side - the two thieves are disposed of and taken away.  The disciples come forward.  Christ is wrapped in a shroud at the foot of the cross and then carried down the steps and carried shoulder high though the crowd to the walled garden behind the Town Hall where he is laid to rest.  Joseph of Arimathea leads the way.  The Centurion’s words are the last words. There is silence as Christ is carried away.
Narrator                      Watch where they bury him ... there’s nothing we can do tomorrow it is the Sabbath  But on the third day we shall be back.  First thing on Sunday morning ... 8-00 ... Now we must part.  But then it will  be good to be together again... friends together ... all of us ... churches together on Easter Sunday morning ... here .... at 8-00.
The ‘musical’ band has taken up a position to the side of the scaffolding stage.  They begin playing When I survey the Wondrous Cross.  They continue to play other Good Friday Hymns ... There is a Green Hill far away, the Passion Chorale and so on.  They have about four or five hymns - they repeat them in reverse order, eventually finishing with When I survey for a second time.  By this time the marching band has ‘marched off’ drums and bugles sounding in the distance. The remainder of the cast are led by the women back towards their starting point.   The crowd is left to disperse.  Two guards stand over the gate - a ‘rock’ is rolled in front of the gate.  Christ is left alone.  He needs to be wrapped in a survival blanket, out of sight and have a ‘survival’ pack with him.  After the crowd has begun to disperse he is relieved.  Christ also returns to the starting point ... St Luke’s hall near Sandford Park.  The cast share prayers to finish the first part of the play on Good Friday.


[1] The wording is cut to a minimum. It keeps very close to the Gospels, bringing the four Gospel accounts of the crucifixion together.