In the spirit of the previous two Flashmob Operas – the first was held at teatime one evening amidst slightly bewildered crowds at London’s Paddington Station – the BBC is staging a Passion play across Manchester tonight (Friday) , to be broadcast live on BBC3 at 9pm, and repeated on BBC2 at 11pm.
A normal passion play retells of the last few hour’s of Jesus’ life. In this case, contemporary music will be used from Manchester bands, with crowds of local people singing (if they turn up). Two parades will wind through the city, converging on the stage in Albert Square, accompanied by songs including:
- You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side (Morrissey)
- Cast No Shadow (Oasis)
- Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
- Search For A Hero (M People)
- Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (The Smiths)
- Sit Down (James)
- Blue Monday (New Order)
- I Am The Resurrection (The Stone Roses)
- Angels (Robbie Williams)
- Wonderwall (Oasis)
- Sunshine After The Rain (Elkie Brooks)
As well as backing from Manchester City Council, Canon Robin Gamble of Manchester Cathedral has added his blessing:
“I wouldn’t know a Buzzcock from a ballcock, so I couldn’t really comment on the music, but God is a big boy. He can take care of Himself ...
All I can say is that they are not doing a Christian service, it's a piece of contemporary theatre which is going to get people thinking about the story in modern terms.
It's going to come from the streets with the sounds of traffic and people bustling around and it will make people think about this story in a new way. It's going to get things rumbling – it's going to be brilliant."
Local churches have helped supply choirs to augment the singing along the route. The Church of England spokeswoman Gillian Oliver was less colourful when she explained
"We are working with the BBC on this and are very pleased to be taking the good news of the gospel onto the streets of Manchester. If anything, something like this can translate the old story into new terms."
And spare a thought (perhaps even a prayer) for the technical folk behind the event trying to make it all come together. With the big differences in the delay of the feeds from the fifteen cameras - some wired, some wireless – never mind the radio mics being used across the city, getting everything back in-sync will be complex. Then there's the songs that need to cope with the unpredictable delays that will hit the parade, and the director's desire to be heard over talkback by the cast and crew - many of whom are several miles away from him.