Chit Chat: Denzil Deane

2011-04-08 13:21

William Charlton-Perkins chats to schoolteacher Denzil Deane between rehearsals for his pivotal role of Jesus in the five-yearly production of the Durban Passion Play, on the 13th time it’s been performed in the city since 1952.

The first Passion Play in Durban was performed in 1952 when the mayor and the Oberammergau community in Bavaria, Germany, granted special permission to the Durban Catholic Players Guild to stage an abridged version of their world-famous play. Tell me about the process which led to you auditioning to play Jesus.

While visiting Holy Trinity Parish in Musgrave (a suburb of Durban), , I noticed a poster for auditions for the Durban Passion Play. The rest is history.

How did you feel when you were told that you got the part?
It hadn’t struck me then that I had been accepted to play such an important role. I was humbled to know my role and didn’t concentrate on the character, but on just how lucky I was to be part of the cast of the Passion Play.

Has this role changed you in any way?
Definitely, in more ways than one. The biggest change is how I relate to my learners at school.

Has playing this role affected your faith in any way?

Yes. My faith has come alive. This journey has helped me to learn more about Christ and to draw closer to Him.

How did the rehearsals go?

Rehearsals went really well. When we reached the two-week mark, nerves suddenly began to rise as we approached our first run-through at the Playhouse.

Rehearsing the Passion Play is a huge commitment – every Sunday from last August until Easter. How did you cope?

Indeed it is a huge commitment, but as I always say: the reward is so much greater. I’ve always preferred a busy lifestyle and
often cope well under pressure, so it’s been manageable.

The cast is huge, about 150 people, and the rehearsal process is long. Have you met “lekker” people in the cast?

The question is, who isn’t “lekker”? We have an amazing director and a vibrant cast, and that makes the rehearsal process all the more enjoyable. I will miss them when the play ends.

What is the biggest challenge in playing this role?

This role has presented many challenges, like studying my lines to memorise the script.

What has this experience taught you?

Being a Christian doesn’t start and end on a Sunday during Mass, it is our duty to carry out the teachings of Jesus in our everyday lives. I’ve also learnt that each child I teach is a blessing from God, and that they should be nurtured accordingly.

You are a teacher, what do your children think of this? Are they going to come along to see you?

Thankfully my learners haven’t got a clue of my role in this play. They often tell me to shave and cut my hair because it doesn’t suit me, or give me silly nicknames, but I simply smile and say, “it’s my new look”.

And staffroom chit-chat? How are the fellow staff members handling your role?

At work only the management is aware of my role because I felt it important that I have permission to grow my hair and have them aware of my duties outside of the school. The staff are not aware of my role. I find it hard to speak of the play or deal with the attention it brings, so I keep my involvement to myself as much as possible.

Do you have a history with the Passion Play?
I’d never heard of the play until now. No one I know has seen it or taken part.

Do you think you will be in the Passion Play again in the next five years?

I do hope so. I’ve yet to experience the fullness of this play, but I would love to take part again.

» The Passion Play is on at Durban’s Playhouse Drama Theatre until April?24. On Saturday, there is a signed performance for the hearing impaired. Book at Computicket.

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