The Miracle Play of the Old Harbour


Excerpt from an article published in WhaleTalk - March/April 2010

The creators of the Hermanus Passion Play call it a miracle. Those who have seen the play, performed in its unique rocky setting in the Old Harbour, simply call it unforgettable. And then there are some who say that is is even better than the famous Passion Play at Oberammergau. For the past fifteen years, the Passsion play has been performed on Good Friday at the Old Harbour in Hermanus. Every year it is watched by thousands - some come from as far as Pretoria and johannesburg with the sole aim to watch the electrifying performance in its stark old-worldish harbour setting.

Since 2005, Lisma is no longer the director of the play - that role has been taken over by Fanus le Roux from Brackenfell who also plays the role of Judas and who has been part of the production from the very beginning. In fact, most of the original players are still involved with the passion play, including the donkey Geelbek, who will make his fifteenth appearance on the rocky stage this year. One of the pioneering players, Awie Truter, will be 80 this year.

"Producing the passion play, year after year, is a way for most of us to reaffirm our faith," says Fanus. "For me it is a soul thing, a way to thank God for giving me a second chance on life after a very bad accident when I fell four storeys high from a scaffold. The players represent all races and walks of life, they don't receive any payment and most of them look forward to the play all year long!"

He admits that it has not always been easy to keep the play solvent as they did not have big sponsors in the past and they have always tried to keep ticket prices as low as possible. This year, performance costs alone will amount to about R50,000.

He regards the play as a visual way to bring God's word to people who need it most. A church minister once remarked that they reach more people through one performance of the passion play than his sermons could do in a whole year.

A remarkable feature of the Hermanus Passion Play over the years has been that although the weather did not always play along, it never rained during a performance.

One year, a black could mass had been hovering threateningly over the Overstrand with only a few stars glittering in the sky above the old harbour. Another time, it had been raining the whole day long but the rain stopped long enough for the play to be performed.

Lisma still remembers a particular performance when the whole area had been covered in a fog blanket. Miraculously, her prayers were answered and the fog lifted, leaving the play area clear for as long as the performance lasted, before descending on the harbour again.

"When you watch the full moon rising over Walker Bay and you listen to the first notes of Richard Strauss' music filling the harbour on the night of the performance, you clearly feel the presence of God," says Fanus. "The biggest encore that we can receive is the silence of the crowds who are often so moved that they become as quiet as in prayer."