Norwich man returns to play Jesus on city streets 

Freddy Goymer plays Jesus in the Passion Play in Norwich on Easter Saturday

Freddy Goymer plays Jesus in the Passion Play in Norwich on Easter Saturday - Credit: Jonathan Cherry for Saltmine Theatre Company

The Easter story, of execution and resurrection almost 2,000 years ago, will be played out on the streets of Norwich on Saturday – with Jesus played by a man who grew up in the city. 

The stage for a dramatic retelling the story of the crucifixion and resurrection will be city centre streets and squares; the cast is a mix of local people and professional actors and the script will be studded with local references.

Actor Freddy Goymer returns to Norwich as Jesus.  

He grew up in the city before joining Saltmine Theatre Company and said: “It is such an exciting opportunity to play Jesus on the streets where I grew up.

"This is the biggest and most challenging role I have ever played. I’m feeling a great sense of excitement but am also very nervous as I feel the weight of responsibility to portray someone who has and continues to change the lives of millions across the world.” 

The Norwich Passion Play begins with Jesus’ celebratory entry into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and follows him through Norwich from Hay Hill to Millennium Plain and the Forum as he meets his disciples for their final meal, is arrested, tried and put to death.

The emotional crucifixion scene takes place outside St Peter Mancroft church. “Fortunately, there will be no nails involved but there will be a cross.” said Freddy. 

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The play ends with the resurrection which will be performed inside St Peter Mancroft Church.  

Lightening strikes over St Peter Mancroft on Saturday 11th October 2014

Thunderstorms are likely over the next few days, with a yellow weather warning in place. - Credit: Victoria Dack

Emily Feltham of Saltmine Theatre said: “Traditionally passion plays tend to end with the crucifixion but it is of huge importance to us to include the resurrection. Ultimately the Easter story is one of hope, joy and unstoppable life which overcomes death - it has to have a happy ending!” 

The drama moves the story which played out in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago to modern-day Norwich. Freddy’s Jesus will be in contemporary clothes rather than sandals and dazzling white robes, underlining the play’s message for the people of today.  

Emily said the play will be performed as people go about their daily lives. “Passion Plays have been performed since medieval times and often reflected contemporary communities and concerns - ours is no different,” she said. “The contemporary setting enables us to reflect on ourselves - where would we be in the crowd? How do we engage with our senses of justice, outrage, grief and eventually, hope? Where does our responsibility lie?"

And she promised a very relatable drama. "As well as using contemporary language throughout, we've woven in some recognisable cultural references, particularly with a Norwich twist! See how much Norwich flavour you can spot - from Delia Smith and Stephen Fry to Colman's mustard and Cromer crab!” 

Local people will join the professional actors as performers, musicians, technicians and stewards, including a 40-strong community cast and choir. The audience will be people who happen to be in the city – shopping, meeting friends, enjoying a day out – as well as those who come specially for the event.

Several thousand people watched as the play was performed in Birmingham city centre for Easter 2019. 

Saltmine Theatre actors performed their Easter Passion Play in Birmingham in 2019

Saltmine Theatre actors performed their Easter Passion Play in Birmingham in 2019 - Credit: Jonathan Cherry for Saltmine Theatre Company

Freddy Goymer

Freddy Goymer - Credit: Jonathan Cherry for Saltmine Theatre Company

Norwich churches closed during COVID19 lock down Easter 2020. St Peter Mancroft Pictures: BRITTANY W

Norwich churches closed during COVID19 lock down Easter 2020. St Peter Mancroft Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Emily said the Norwich play is for everyone – whether religious or not. “It's most definitely for everyone of all ages and all backgrounds - shoppers, tourists, coffee drinkers, Christians, people who are tired of religion, people who have never set foot in a church and never intend to!” said Emily. “Our hope is that anyone who is around will be drawn into joining in. Jesus' message is of inclusion and community; hope for the hopeless, welcome for the outsiders, healing for people who feel broken or broken-hearted - we would love to reflect that and demonstrate that there is space for everyone in the Easter story.” 

Freddy said: “I am looking forward to people encountering the gospel in a fresh and engaging way whether they have purposely turned up for the event or just shopping and wandering the streets of Norwich.” 

He knew he wanted to be an actor from the age of seven, when he began performing with Norwich’s Maddermarket theatre. 

“I haven’t looked back since!” said the former pupil of the city’s Notre Dame High School. 

He grew up a Christian, attending services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral and Surrey Chapel, where he and his wife, Beth, were married.  

He joined Christian theatre company Saltmine as an actor 10 years ago and has performed, written and directed for the touring company. 

This will be the first time he has performed on the streets of Norwich and he is looking forward to family and friends being in the audience “I have quite a large family in Norwich, many of whom work for the family business, the local opticians Dipple and Conway,” he said. It will be exciting to perform to strangers but also familiar faces.” 

And are there any nerves? “I guess performing a show on the street for anyone to come to is both an opportunity but also an unknown challenge,” he said. “There may be people in the crowd who completely disagree with what we are doing but my hope is that people engage with the story and be drawn in to hear the hope of the Easter story.” 

Emily said: “By making the play as culturally relevant as possible, we highlight how disruptive the story really is - Jesus turns death itself inside out and changes reality forever. Through his death, and life, we can be certain that love always wins.” 

The Norwich Passion Play will be performed twice in the city centre on Easter Saturday, April 16, beginning at 11am and 3pm. It has been brought to the city by Saltmine Theatre, Norwich churches and Celebrate Norwich and Norfolk – which highlights the work of local churches and Christian organisations.