Today a party of 42 of us should be heading to Heathrow and onwards to the Austrian Tyrol, before travelling by coach to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play. We have been anticipating it for two years, and now we have a further two year wait ahead of us, as the Play has been re-scheduled for 2022. It is only performed every ten years, so, whilst this is deeply disappointing for our party, and some will be unable to re-book for 2022, the outcome for the village of Oberammergau must be devastating.
I will shortly be outlining the arrangements for June 2022, but until then, may I give you a little flavour of the performance, that we can at least imagine, even though the theatre is empty and the cast, choir and orchestra, having returned to their fields, shops, offices and other jobs from which a five month break would have been made.
The play lasts for about five hours with a meal break in the middle. It builds from magnificent scenes, such as that for Palm Sunday, with hundreds of people and animals on the vast stage, to small tableaus in which the actors have to stand rigid, holding a pose for perhaps three or four minutes, whilst scenery and props are being changed. The choir processes in carefully rehearsed order on to the stage quite often too, and a full orchestra fills the pit below. All of these people, in order to allow them to take part, must have been born in the village or lived there for at least twenty years, or is it thirty - I can’t remember; a long time anyway.
So, from the time the children start school they are being identified as potential musicians, actors or singers. It is truly an amazing feat. The play has been performed by the villagers in thanksgiving for the plague leaving Oberammergau in 1633. The vow the village made in that year was to perform the Passion of our Lord every ten years. Now nearly four hundred years later it is still being performed, and people travel from across the world to see it. We may not be leaving today, but we hope and pray that come 15th June 2022 (our new departure date) that we shall be off and away. It will be very special and I shall be able to take new bookings, with a new itinerary later in the summer.