Did I ever mention that I loathe Easter weekend? It’s something I learned early in life, by the time I was old enough to go into Blackpool on my own. ”Don’t go on Easter weekend – it’s like sardines out there!” was the advice we’d give each other, and once we learned to drive it was even worse – Sunday drivers and no parking! The trouble with Easter is that, compared to summer vacations, everyone is on holiday at the same time, which means crowds everywhere. Narrow Lake District roads are another place to avoid at this time of year. Gridlock – and usually gridlock accompanied by the slapping of windscreen wipers.
Basically, it’s the same here, but without the windscreen wipers. Chaos for the most part, especially if you are unlucky enough to be working in the accommodation sector, though I suppose these days one’s just lucky to be working, anywhere. Next year I am thinking it would be nice to be somewhere which doesn’t holiday over this particular weekend.
Take a look at the photo below. This was El Médano beach on Wednesday afternoon, before the weekend even, although most tourists arrived the previous weekend, given the lateness of the date this year. By Thursday the numbers had swollen, with the influx of affluent northerners, who have second homes around here. Parking became a nightmare, and, inevitably, the weather took a turn for the worse ……… happens here too, you see……not quite windscreen wipers though!
However, apparently, not everyone was on the beaches, even though it seemed like it. According to yesterday’s local newspapers 23,000 of them turned up in Adeje on Friday morning for the annual passion play, that included me and Maria and Isabel. I’d heard so much about this event, but often worked Good Fridays in recent years, so this was my first opportunity to see it for myself, and I was looking forward to it.
We arrived early, as advised, and after coffee and tortilla we staked our claim at the roadside barrier about an hour before the performance was due to begin. This, however, didn’t stop a very rude, old, Italian man from pushing in and spoiling the view with his flowerpot of a hat……..not at all Giorgio Armani!
The play takes place all along the main street of the town, so getting to see or photograph it all is impossible, unless you have a press pass, of course, and although the tv cameras broadcast it all, there seemed to be an absence of press en masse. If you would like to see professional photos check out these from local guide Tinerguia.
We were able to wander Calle Grande, arriving as early as we did, and take a close look at the sets which had been constructed, the scene of the Last Supper with a table laden with real food, the Garden of Gethsemane with olive branches stuck into the stumps of trees, the palaces were Jesus was judged and flogged, and, finally Calvary in the small square at the beginning of the street. All the participants in the cast of 300 are townspeople, and along the street “shops” and food stalls had been constructed, and real food was being stacked onto them, pedestrian crossings had been covered over with leaves and straw, and telephone boxes and other modern inventions had been disguised as far as possible. Everything was first-class, so much so that in one photo I snapped I wasn’t sure where the set ended and the real street began. I saw these guys in their smocks and sneakers, and for one, horrible moment thought that this was going to be the standard, but soon realized that they were camera crew, blending in as much as practical, which was great.
Remarkably for Tenerife, it began on the dot. As the town hall clock struck 12 the “extras” entered and took up their places along the route, children played along the road, looking for all the world as if this was real life, women sold produce from those stalls, and the general public ambled along. Truly it didn’t take much effort to imagine oneself back in Palestine 2,000 years ago.
The cast dotted about, cue the entry of the badies, Roman soldiers, rabbis and, of course, Pontius Pilate.
You can see how excellent the costumes were. I’m not saying those breastplates were metal, but the details were amazing. Movie buff that I am (and I love noting continuity goofs etc) I tried to spot a wristwatch or two, but didn’t see one, although there were a few wedding rings. Maybe they wore wedding rings back then, I don’t know, just that the costumes and sets were wonderful, a much, much higher standard than I expected.
We were close to the Last Supper, and yet another nice surprise was the quality of the sound system, as the performance began, which broadcast to the entire street quite clearly. Obviously, the people waiting at Calvary were couldn’t see what was happening around the table, at the opposite end of the street, but they must have heard the dialogue just fine.
Feet washed, and Judas having stormed out of dinner, the cast prepared to move onto the next set along the street, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the police took down the ropes from the sides of the street and formed a line across, so that watchers could follow on and get a good view of the next scene. At that point Isabel and I went in search of a loo, which we found in the Cultural Center, where the event was being shown on a huge tv. We opted to return to the streets, though. We found it almost impossible to see very much from then on, however, people from higher up the street were crushing around, as were we, and we caught glimpses, but nothing more until the tableau arrived at “Calvary” where a pop-concert-style screen was showing the recording. Everything could be heard quite clearly though. The standard of acting and singing was outstanding, worthy of the London stage, even if the script was, at times, at little corny, but, then, perhaps that’s what it’s all about. That said, it’s exactly that blind attachment to the fairy story aspect of all this I find difficult to swallow. It’s clearly not the case for most of the people in the photo below. Just look at their faces, nothing if not in the moment.
That was one of those making-lemonade moments. The crowd was dense, and I simply held up the camera and clicked blindly. Of course, I would have liked a better picture of Jesus, but I thought the faces were interesting. After he passed, and that crowd following the police cordon massed behind, it seemed like time to retreat. We had no hope of seeing anything more in detail, and the sound system and the big screen on Calvary were going to carry the rest of the performance to us.
Feeling peckish we were happy to find that the produce from those “stalls” was being given away. This lady was tearing off chunks of bread and ladling gooey jam into it as she joked with “customers”.
As we stood in the middle of the street, munching, we thought it had come to an end as Jesus was lowered from the cross, and Mary wept over his body. Certainly, applause rippled through the audience. However, we grabbed our cameras again when we realized that at least some of the cast were still in character and returning in our direction.
I thought this picture might give you an idea of just how many people there were, but I don’t think it really does.
Jesus’s body returning to the church to await Sunday. At this stage it is not the actor, but one of the plaster figures from the church.
It was certainly a memorable event, and I am delighted to have seen it. As a spectacle it was marvellous, perfectly executed, prepared and dressed. If there were any hitches, I didn’t notice them. Will I go next year? Not sure, mainly because of the crush. Would I go to see another one elsewhere? Definitely. Not as a religious experience, though I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose message should be heeded, I don’t think that churches have really lived up to that message in a very, very long time. However, as theater it was quite remarkable, and I will fill in now with some faces from the day.
And a couple which made me smile!