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Reprising a modern Jesuit journey

Ahead of the National Pilgrimage to Keith, CHRISTINE GLEN looks at the final planned performances of AGAP’s The Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie

During AGAP’s (Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project) Lentfest of 2015; a play was performed to mark the anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie. The parish performances in the touring schedule, included twice at the SYT(Scottish Youth Theatre) and further from home at the St Ninian Institute in Dundee.

Now the players are set to tread the boards again, in one last final Glasgow performance at St Michaels in Parkhead. Nothing unusual in itself but it is the beginning of a preparation far from the dear green place, as the play will journey east to be performed at St Thomas’ in Keith.

As the cast begin rehearsals in June, the first run through with no script, after the long break is looking promising. The rare thing about the cast and those behind the scenes is that many were in the previous production of The Martyrdom of John Ogilvie (2012) and or worked together on the AGAP play, Fr Kentenich, Champion of Freedom (2014).

Therefore there is less awkwardness around the cast and this forging of friendships creates a welcoming atmosphere that feels like family.

Stephen Callaghan, the director of AGAP, who also plays the lead role of John Ogilvie in the play he wrote, spoke of the challenges of taking such a large cast and crew touring beyond Glasgow.

“Naturally, having a large cast and crew presents issues for transport and the practical issue of synchronising so many diaries to fit rehearsals but the people are really dedicated,” Mr Callaghan said.

“It means something to them and none of them would be taking part if they didn’t want to.

“We all get on very well and the real sense of joy and camaraderie is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is at work. This takes a lot of the strain away.”

He added that revisiting the play after such a long break was a pleasure.

“Revisiting a play is something that I don’t get to do very often,” he said. “It’s a luxury!  I’ve taken away the prologue and epilogue from the 2012 version. These have been replaced with an historical audio-visual element involving projection and a new prologue, written specially for the 400th anniversary of Ogilvie’s martyrdom.

“It is set in front of the national shrine in the Jesuit Church of St Aloysius in Glasgow.  It was a way of thanking the Jesuits for their support with the production.  It was at their request that we restaged the play for the 400th anniversary.”

And finally he gave his thoughts on travelling to Keith in July.

“It will be an adventure to take the play to Ogilvie’s birthplace,” he said. “ In a sense, it brings our ‘pilgrimage’ as a cast and crew to its appropriate completion.

“Bishop Hugh Gilbert was very keen for the play to visit Aberdeen Diocese and Fr Max McKeown, parish priest of St Thomas’s in Keith has really bent over backwards to make it possible.  Everyone is looking forward to it and I am sure that St John Ogilvie will be watching over us.”

—The Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie will be performed in St Michael’s, Parkhead, on July 16 and at St Thomas’ in Keith on July 18.

— The National Pilgrimage to Keith, the birthplace of St John Ogilvie, will be take place on July 4. More information can be found at http://holyfamily.dioceseofaberdeen.org/?event=national-pilgrimage-to-keith-birthplace-of-st-john-ogilvie or by searching for National Pilgrimage Keith online.

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