President’s Blog: 5th September 2022
Our visit to Oberammergau was memorable for many reasons. The Passion play is held every ten years and we had originally planned to visit in 2020. However, like most things that year, the play was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. There is a certain irony in this is that in 1633, most of Europe, including Oberammergau was affected by the plague and the villagers promised that they would perform a play of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, every tenth year if none of the villagers were to die of the plague. The villagers felt that they had been answered by God and the first play was held in 1634 and they have kept their promise until today. Between May and October, the play is performed every day.
The village itself is picturesque with beautifully decorated houses with pictures from the Bible, history and fairytales. There are schools for artists and wood carvers to learn their trade. It is wonderful to see how a whole community can come together to provide a whole experience centred around the play. Many of the villagers cater for the visitors by converting their front rooms into shops, then just before the play is due to begin, they close and head for the theatre to take part in the play. The hoteliers and staff provide accommodation, meals in the interval, and are also members of the cast.
The production involves over 2000 people including children, a choir and animals and is five hours long with a break for a meal in the middle. This year, they wanted to focus more on Judas Iscariot to highlight the incidence of young men suffering from mental health issues. Judas was played by a Muslim actor who put his heart and soul into the role, leaving a lasting impression on us all. Although the play was in German, it was easy to follow. We were given the text in English which was a little difficult to read by torchlight in the second part.
The following day we had booked to listen to one of the actors talk about their experience of the play. Imagine our surprise when the actor who had played Jesus appeared! It was a heart stopping moment as he led us into the auditorium saying, ‘Follow Me!’
The play really brought the story to life and we felt privileged and blessed to have been able to have visited Oberammergau. It was a once in a life-time experience which we will never forget and one that I can recommend for 2030!