The Passion Of Jesus: Free Play Returns To Trafalgar Square On Good Friday 2024

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Last Updated 13 March 2024

The Passion Of Jesus: Free Play Returns To Trafalgar Square On Good Friday 2024
Passion of Jesus: 'Jesus' surrounded by other actors with his arms raised in Trafalgar Square
The Passion of Jesus is something of a Good Friday tradition in London. Image: Wintershall

A 100-strong cast returns to Trafalgar Square on Good Friday, for an epic live portrayal of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Wintershall, a theatre company based in the Surrey countryside, has been putting on its monumental play, The Passion of Jesus, in central London since 2010. The two Good Friday performances — which are free to watch — regularly attract more than 20,000 people. Wintershall says the production is "a gift to Londoners and visitors."

The show depicts the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans, before he miraculously rises from the dead on Easter Sunday. Ambitious staging features scores of Roman centurions, branch-waving 'crowds', and the erection of three crucifixes.

The Passion of Jesus: Roman centurions erecting three crucifixes with people strapped to them, in front of the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
There is a realistic depiction of the crucifixion, which might be too graphic for younger audience members. Image: Wintershall

Described as 'electric' and 'moving', the show is mic-ed up, with large screens placed around Trafalgar Square, broadcasting the two 90-minute performances so that everyone can see. British Sign Language interpretation is provided for both shows.

The Passion of Jesus also features live animals; 'Pontius Pilate' rides into the Square on horseback ("George loves the attention of the crowds," we're told; presumably George is the horse). A donkey named Chester and some doves will also appear. Experienced handlers accompany the animals, ensuring everything's safe and comfortable for them.

The Passion of Jesus: Crowds sitting on the floor in Trafalgar Square watching two actors mounted on horses
Live animals are involved in The Passion of Jesus. Photo: Wintershall

The production has developed a considerable reputation and following since its London premiere 14 years ago. In 2011 the Queen awarded the cast and crew the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

This was a significant moment for Wintershall, coming from humble beginnings. Peter Hutley founded the volunteer group in his home in 1989, initially producing performances inside an 18th century barn behind the house.

Professional actor James Burke-Dunsmore played the lead role of Jesus for Wintershall's for almost quarter of a century. He told us in 2019 that he maintained his hair and beard year-round: "It saves a fortune in razors." In 2023, secondary school teacher and trained actor Peter Bergin took on the role of Jesus, and he'll do the same on Good Friday 2024.

A trio of actors dressed as Roman soldiers in Trafalgar Square
Image: Wintershall

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has said of the event: "The Passion of Jesus welcomes thousands of Londoners of all backgrounds to Trafalgar Square to enjoy a live reenactment of the story of Jesus’s final days and resurrection. This inspiring performance has become an Easter tradition in the heart of our capital as we build a fairer and better London for all."

The Passion of Jesus, Trafalgar Square, 29 March 2024 at 12pm and 3.15 pm (performances 90 minutes each). It's free to attend, and you're advised to arrive about 40 minutes before the performance, as it gets busy. You can also stream live on Facebook, or catch it on YouTube after the performance.