RTÉ One, Sunday, 9.30pm
Would You Believe?

Passion: A Would You Believe? Special

In April 2014, the residents of Nicker, a small community in rural Co. Limerick, staged Ireland's first 24-hour Passion play. A drama without script, performed by amateurs, it demanded that its cast not only dig deep into their understanding of the 2000 year old Easter story, but deep into themselves. In doing so, they discovered PASSION in the fullest sense, producing a profoundly moving, even life-changing work of dramatic art that transcended its participants' ideas of religion and left many who saw it stunned. In the year when Limerick is Ireland's City of Culture, this remarkable Would You Believe? documentary captures all that PASSION.

'The smallest village with the biggest passion.' - Mike Gleeson, resident, Pallas Green

When the residents of Nicker, a Limerick village near Pallas Green, responded to local farmer, Eamonn Harty's call to stage a Passion play, they had little idea what would be involved. In Holy Week 2014, almost the entire community of farmers, nurses, care workers, builders, postmen, mechanics and teachers was mobilised to transform their village into a stage fit to present Ireland's first Passion play to be produced in real time over 24 hours.

Over a gruelling schedule of late-night rehearsals, Eamonn taught the cast his own version of method acting. Only by looking into their own experiences of passion - grief, love, pain, fear and faith - could they convey to their audience the true emotional weight of the 2000-year old story they were re-creating. For many, the process was deeply unsettling, and yet, in mining those feelings, the amateur actors discovered and revealed remarkable things about themselves. For mechanic, Garry Fraher (Jesus), for instance, the play became an opportunity to exorcise the grief he had been unable to express at the death of his mother.

"I've so many regrets how I didn't grieve. I was angry with myself; I was angry that she deserved more. She deserved the tears on the day, but I couldn't give them to her. It still annoys me."

Thousands attended the single performance on that "green hill far away", including anyone from national commentators to local residents. No-one left unmoved. Deliberately, the audience, who followed the action to various parts of the village, throughout the night of Holy Thursday and right through to Good Friday afternoon, found themselves participants in the action rather than spectators. It was a role that many clearly found unsettling and even upsetting as they literally joined the cast on the road to Calvary.

"It's more than just a story, more than a production: it's all about examining your own life and relationship to the characters that you meet in the story. It will make us see the Passion as a very significant part of what makes us what we are." - Kevin O'Shea (Pilate).

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