Telling it their own way


Crowds weeping after Jesus, played by Depakar@John Nagendran, breathed his last on the cross in the children’s Passion play for Good Friday at Church of Divine Mercy in Sungai Ara, Penang. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

IN most churches, the staging of the Passion play for Good Friday is usually done by the adults as it carries the heavy topic of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

But, at the Church of Divine Mercy in Sungai Ara, Penang, a group of little children presented the story in a simple yet meaningful way.

Using minimal dialogues, costumes and props, 28 young ones, aged between seven and 12, from the Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW) group gave a memorable performance.

The 25-minute-long drama began with Jesus taking his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives, after having the Last Supper.

Jesus, portrayed by 10-year-old Depakar@John Nagendran, then moved to a quiet place to pray while His disciples waited nearby until He returned.

The tired disciples ended up taking a snooze, but some of the cheeky little ones started making loud snoring and whistling sounds, drawing chuckles from the crowd.

Depakar said he volunteered for the role, adding that it took him a few weeks of practice to get it right.

“Carrying the heavy cross on my shoulder was quite painful, but I can imagine how Jesus felt carrying the sins of the world on His shoulder,” he said at the play’s full dress rehearsal at the church in Jalan Kenari recently.

Roman Governor Pilate, played by Matthew Gomez (right) declaring that he found no basis to charge Jesus before asking the people to decide if they wanted Jesus or Barabbas - the thief to be set free.
Roman Governor Pilate, played by Matthew Gomez (right) declaring that he found no basis to charge Jesus before asking the people to decide if they wanted Jesus or Barabbas - the thief to be set free.

Depakar, a Year Four pupil of SJKC Chong Cheng, said it was humbling to portray Jesus, adding that he hoped more children would grow to know of His sacrificial love for mankind.

The scene where one of the disciples — Simon Peter cut off the right ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest — is well done as an artificial ear could be seen falling to the ground before Jesus picked it up and restored it back on Malchus.

Roman Governor Pilate, played by nine-year-old Matthew Gomez, is equally compelling, as he delivered his lines in clear diction.

“Playing Pilate is quite challenging, as he is firm but non-committal,” said Matthew, adding that his parents Gilbert Gomez and Anne Rowena David helped him rehearse the part.

In the scene where Pilate asked the crowd who they wanted to be freed between Jesus and Barabbas - the thief, the little ones boisterously shouted, “Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas” and later naughtily giggled soon after.

By getting the children to act out the Passion, it encourages them to become a part of Jesus’ life, says Rev Martin.
By getting the children to act out the Passion, it encourages them to become a part of Jesus’ life, says Rev Martin.

Desirae Danya Michael Xavier, 11, who played Jesus’ mother Mary, said she watched a few YouTube clips on the Passion to study some of the facial expressions for her character.

“Though I was not terribly nervous, there was still a tingling feeling inside, whenever I wore the blue garment to portray Mother Mary,” she said.

Church vicar Rev Father Martin Andrews Arlando said it was the second year that young ones from CLOW were staging the play.

“Acting involves feelings, emotions and sensory skills. By getting the children to act out the Passion, it encourages them to become a part of Jesus’ life.

“And, when they grow up, hopefully they will remember what they did here,” he said.

Play director Anuja Michael Xavier said it was hard for the children to attend all of the rehearsals despite held over the weekends, as many had commitments such as tuition lessons and family events.

“But, praise God we managed to get a full cast for this rehearsal. Apart from the children in CLOW, who are from Years One to Six, we also want the older children from the parish and those from outside to watch the Passion play which is specially for them,” she said.

Anuja said the children’s Good Friday service and Passion play will be held today at 7.30pm, separately from the adults’ service that will run concurrently at the main sanctuary.

The play will be staged at the second floor of the church’s Pastoral Centre, which could take in up to 300 people.

For more information, kindly call the church at 04-6466885.

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