national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, March 23, 2015


(Lictors bring the thieves: Nsiki Zunga, Clifford Wardle (thief), Mike Lohr (thief), Novien Pillay. Pic by Andrew Buchanan)

The Durban Catholic Players’ Guild will present the 14th Durban Passion Play – the “Oberammergau of Africa” - at the Playhouse Drama Theatre from April 1 to 19, 2015.

The Passion Play strives to restore the true meaning of Easter. It is an epic scale dramatic production depicting Jesus' passion, covering the final period of his life from his visit to Jerusalem to his execution by crucifixion. It is performed by a large cast who volunteer their time and skills as part of their Lenten preparations. The play involves seven months of commitment from a 150-plus cast who receive no remuneration.

The cast comprises an inter-denominational group of diverse people who vary in age from toddlers and teenagers to young adults and the more mature.

The play is directed by Dawn Haynes and Tanya Conradie: “We have many families participating and it is wonderful to see grandparents, children and grandchildren all involved together,” says Dawn. ”This year we also have special needs people in our cast. These families are truly a shining example of a family that prays together and they are an inspiration to us all.”

The first Passion Play in Durban was performed in 1952, when the mayor and community of Oberammergau in Bavaria granted special permission to the Durban Catholic Players’ Guild to stage an abridged version of their world famous Passion Play. What was first enacted in 1634 in Oberammergau was used in Durban as a means of celebrating the centenary of the arrival of the missionary Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate, who arrived in South Africa in 1852.

That first play, enacted at the Greyville Racecourse, was so successful that Durban’s Father Noel Coughlan travelled to Bavaria to gain permission for the Durban version of the play to be staged every five years. The Oberammergau village fathers willingly obliged, seeing the play as a means of witnessing to the larger population of Southern Africa. Durban would become the “Oberammergau of Africa”.

It has now been staged in Durban every five years for the past 63 years. The Durban Passion Play was staged at the Greyville Racecourse for many years, before moving to the Durban City Hall until 1997. More recently it has been performed at the Playhouse.

There will be 24 performances in the Playhouse Drama Theatre running from April 1 to19. One of the highlights is a special performance for the hearing impaired on April 12 at 14h30, where the performance will be signed.

Public booking is at Computicket. Block bookings are available for fund raising through Dawn Haynes at

A bus will be travelling to Durban for its passengers to attend one of the performances – subject to availability – on request. If anyone travelling from a distance requires information regarding bus hire or accommodation, contact Robert Haynes on 071 382 5845 or email: or Dominic Sandiah on 082 460 7677 or email: