This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Passion play to draw crowds
Up to 10,000 people are expected to gather in the city centre on Good Friday for a dramatic retelling of the Easter story.
The annual Christ in the Centre passion play, which will be held in Humberstone Gate, will portray the events of Holy Week – from Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
A cast of more than 40 amateurs will be led by Australian-born professional actor James Mathison-Kelly in the role of Jesus.
Mr Mathison-Kelly said: "The challenge to the whole cast is to honour that powerful script and explain why Jesus did what he did.
"I am always conscious that there will be people in the audience who know little or nothing of the story, so we need to tell them what it is about as well. Whenever I read the Easter story, I get a sense of energy from it. Being part of the cast makes you think about it more seriously."
The annual event, which regularly draws a crowd of up to 10,000 people, usually features a procession through the city centre before the play.
However, organisers have said that, due to a drop in funds, they have decided to drop the procession and focus on the play in Humberstone Gate instead.
The event will cost up to £40,000 to stage.
Group spokesman Jonathan Wheeler said: "We were very conscious of the economic situation and cut our cloth accordingly.
"We decided to base all the activity in Humberstone Gate so that we can invest in the staging and communications.
"We are very grateful to the people and organisations who have generously donated to the running costs of this year's event."
Canon Barry Naylor, who chairs the event's organising committee, said this year's event was about spreading a message of hope.
He said: "We know from the fabulous feedback we get every year what a special place Christ in the Centre holds in people's hearts.
"Every year it generates an extraordinary response from the audience, and reminds all those who witness it of the true meaning of Easter.
"In the current economic climate, and with so many people worrying about the future, the message of hope for the future is very relevant."
For more information, visit: www.christinthecentre.co.uk