This week twenty one years ago saw the staging of possibly the biggest theatrical event ever in the town of Cashel - The Passion Play.
The brainchild of Br. Kevin Treacy, Cashel CBS, the production was staged in Halla na Feile for thirteen days in early April and drew full houses for all performances.
With an involvement of over two hundred people, the main characters were drawn mainly from the ranks of local drama groups who were no strangers to the stage. The majority however had no theatrical experience at all and got involved just to be part of what was obviously something very special, becoming cast and choir members, or helping out with production.
In warmer and dryer climes passion plays are often performed outdoors, April weather in Ireland ruled out any such thoughts so Halla na Feile became the only alternative for such a huge undertaking. Although not ideal with its undulating topography the venue was looked upon by imported producer Martin Dempsey, a national figure of acting, singing, directing and broadcasting fame, as a challenge that could be turned into an opportunity. A small dedicated band of carpenters and painters succeeded in turning aspects of the former machinery-showroom-come-ballroom into creditable depictions from the time of Jesus.
Mr. Dempsey had overall responsibility for the production but the input of musical director Kevin Muldoon, was pivotal.
The production was a outstanding success. As the final curtain rose on Good Friday the auditorium had to be crammed with extra seats in order to accommodate the overflowing throng, which the organisers felt did nor deserve to be deprived of their only chance to see the great performance.
Hard working stage manager Brother McGinnity echoed widespread popular opinion suggesting that the success of the Passion Play was based on one of the greatest community efforts ever undertaken in the town. Few who witnessed first hand the spectacle would disagree with that assessment. Summing up his feelings of undisguised satisfaction after the final curtain Brother Treacy thanked so many people for working so hard with so much dedication, patience, kindness, tolerance and good humour
The epic run of the Cashel Passion Play, a landmark in itself in the history of the town, was only overshadowed by its fine execution and the huge audiences it managed to attract throughout its thirteen day duration.