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Review: Theatre

The Edinburgh Passion

The Edinburgh Passion

Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

It's nearly 30 years since Bill Bryden cast David Hayman as a radical Jesus processing through the streets of Glasgow for The Holy City, his contemporary television rendering of the Passion. Something of that play's spirit seems to have trickled down into Rob Drummond's own up to the minute version, which sees an authoritarian regime campaigning for a No vote in a forthcoming referendum. Having already reduced crime figures by bringing back the death penalty, political figurehead Herod, his spin doctor McKayfus and police chief Pilate are gunning for charismatic community spokesman and Yes poster boy Jesus.

Only when their nemesis is set up on trumped up terrorist charges do Herod and his cronies appear to gain the upper hand.

Opening with two uniformed policemen flanking the Ross Bandstand, Suzanne Lofthus's open-air production for the Cutting Edge Theatre Company in association with the Princes Street Easter Play Trust is played across three small stages in the Ross Bandstand enclosure before we're led to a Last Supper in the Gethsemane pub beer garden. Here Jesus signs autographs and poses for selfies before being sentenced to death, not by crucifixion, but by lethal injection.

With a large community cast led by professional actor Duncan Rennie as Jesus, such modern stylings work fine, though any parallels with real-life referendums don't really stand up once the action moves into more metaphysical, resurrection-based waters.

While it's hard not to sound preachy in a story designed to do exactly that, Drummond, Lofthus and the cast have nevertheless pulled together a spectacle which asks some still pertinent questions about faith, humanity and the need for a dissenting voice to rise up.

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