Binham villagers’ scruffy authenticity is growing for their Passion Play

As Binham villagers prepare to stage a Passion Play this spring, some of its stars are aiming for an authentically scruffy look - by growing beards for the first time in their lives.

It was a time before Gillette Sensor Excel and a seemingly never-ending choice of one, two or even five blades.

As the people of Jerusalem witnessed Jesus' last days on earth, shaving was the last thing on their minds as they negotiated foreign military rule and anti-Roman rebellion.

So, as villagers in Binham prepare to stage a Passion Play this spring, some of its stars are aiming for an authentically scruffy look – by growing beards for the first time in their lives.

Set in the north Norfolk community's stunning priory church, the performance will feature about 40 local people taking on parts ranging from Pontius Pilate and Mary Magdalene to servants and market goers.


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Script-writing began in November and, just a few weeks later, organisers began recruiting a band of players from the benefice.

Cast member Mick Jeffery, 74, said: 'There was a suggestion that we needed some bearded men for the crowd scenes, but there weren't very many around. I thought to myself, after Christmas, I might save myself a bit of shaving.

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'I was just one of the crowd, then I got promoted to be a disciple. Whether the beard had anything to do with it, I don't know.'

Mr Jeffery, who lives in Binham with wife and costume assistant Sue, was soon joined by other villagers, including the play's producer, 75-year-old David Frost.

Neither had ever had beards before and have had to seek advice from neighbours with more experience of whiskers.

Former consulting engineer Mr Jeffrey said: 'It's a bit odd, in a way. Not having had one before, I don't know what you do with it. Do you cut it?

'It's been a bit itchy, but they tell me it's going to get a lot softer.'

For wardrobe mistress Beverley Taylor, the men's commitment to looking the part fits perfectly with her own vision.

The mother and grandmother, who is overseeing the making of more than 40 costumes using more than 100m of fabric, said: 'It's brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I'm trying to go for scruffy authenticity. That's how they would have been. There were no irons; everything was hand woven.'

Mrs Taylor has trawled the internet, searched libraries and taken inspiration from programmes like the recent BBC drama Nativity, to ensure every cast member looks the part.

Plans for the Passion Play, which will use the length and breadth of the Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross, began last year when Mr Frost and his wife Maureen went to Germany.

Every 10 years, the village of Oberammergau puts on a performance recalling the last days of Jesus' life for thousands of international visitors.

Retired chemical engineer Mr Frost said: 'I was so impressed. It was such a community effort. Something like half of the village participates directly.'

Having decided to try to recreate the Passion Play in the dramatic setting of Binham Priory, the producer called on local author Andrew Moncur to write the script and Grant Harrison, of Fadlos, to direct.

But Mr Frost said, despite the many efforts to give an authentic picture of first-century Jerusalem, he believed the story would feel much closer-to-home for many.

He said: 'Seeing the story performed in Oberammergau, it made it seem so relevant. Jerusalem was a land under military occupation, with a fractious, indigenous population who cannot make up their minds what they want.

'It's what you read every day in the papers and see on the television. On that basis, you don't have to believe – it's just a very good, very powerful story.'

The Binham Priory Passion Play will take place on Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20. Admission is free but seats must be reserved. Tickets can be booked from March 1 by contacting Maureen Frost on 01328 830362 or emailing davidfrost226@btinternet.com

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