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Devout Catholics takes up the role of a lifetime in world famous Oberammergau Passion Play

Major role: Frederik Mayet will play Jesus in the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020.

GERMAN actor and devout Catholic Frederik Maye, sips coffee in a trendy city café, considering his role playing Jesus Christ in the world famous Oberammergau Passion Play.

“It’s a big honour,” the 39 year old said.

Mr Mayet is visiting Australia helping to promote the event that attracts half a million visitors to his tiny Bavarian hamlet.

The Oberammergau Passion Play dates back to 1634 and is performed only once every 10 years, and importantly, each actor must be a native of Oberammergau.

“Everyone who takes part must have been born in the village or have lived there at least 20 years,” Mr Mayet said.

“So you really grow up into the passion play and into the faith and the ideas of Jesus. 

“My great grandfather moved to Oberammergau in in 1890. 

“He was a wood carver which is a job that also has a long tradition in this village in Germany.”

Mr Mayet’s love of theatre led to his career working in theatre production and publicity in Munich.

He played John the Apostle in the 2010 passion play, and was surprised to be picked for the lead role for the coming performance, to be held in May, 2020.

Rather than audition, tradition dictates that villagers register interest in the play, and then the director decides and the names of the players are posted on a notice board outside the theatre.

“My name appeared next to the role of Jesus and so I was really excited to play this role,” he said.

Oberammergau’s devout villagers (90 per cent are still Catholic) first performed this play in 1634 in the hope that they would be spared the devastating effects of the Black Death plague that was decimating Europe. 

Miraculously, the villagers survived the pandemic and as a token of their thanks to God, they have continued to perform their Passion Play every 10 years ever since. 

Tradition: Costumes and props from the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020.

Profits from the show are reinvested in the village, enabling it to provide the services and infrastructure necessary for future generations to experience the show.

Mr Mayet is modest about what he brings to role of Jesus, although he says audience members have often told him “you look like Jesus”.

“It’s always an interpretation. I’ve read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies about Jesus. Everyone has a picture of Jesus,” he said.

Interestingly it was a wood carving of Jesus, crafted by his grandfather out of cherrywood that most inspired him to the role.

“That is the picture I have in mind. It’s a very skinny Jesus on the cross … and he has long curly hair. My hair is not like that,” he said.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is not one of Mr Mayet’s favourites.

“For me the movie was too bloody, the focus was too much on the suffering and not so much on the message,” he said.

“While the suffering is important, for me the story of Jesus is about the message he brought into the world.”

The 16-act Passion Play follows the final period of the Messiah’s life, ending with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. 

Locals vie for the 2000 roles as performers, technicians and musicians. 

More than half a million spectators viewed the production when it last took place in 2010 and it has become a must-see event for many Euorpean visitors.

For more details on Oberammergau tours or to book a trip: Contact your local travel agent or call Collette on 1300 792 195 or visit  www.gocollette.com/passionplay

Written by: Mark Bowling
Catholic Church Insurance

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