Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

Norfolk actor journeys from Shakespeare to Jesus 

Norwich actor Dominic Rye decided at the age of eight that God did not exist – then ended up playing Jesus in a Passion Play. 

The 34-year-old actor, who now calls big-sky Norfolk his home, grew up in the Midlands. His mother was a drama teacher and Dominic was only 12 when he tried his hand at acting for the first time, as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was intoxicating. There was a mysterious alchemy, he discovered, for bringing the house down.


In August this year he had an opportunity to put on display locally his acting and musical skills when a group he belongs to called West End Has Faith came to Dereham and Aylsham. The troupe unites Christian professionals who work in showbusiness.


“The beauty of West End Has Faith is connecting Christian performers with each other,” said Dominic. “We encourage each other and share advice. It’s always comforting to be reminded that our worth is defined by God, not by the success (or otherwise) of auditions, especially in such a precarious industry.”


It was not always obvious, however, that Dominic would become an actor. His parents talked him out of going to drama school and into something more sensible: a degree in languages at Leicester University. 


By the time it came to a Masters, however, Dominic’s sense of the ridiculous was beginning to kick in. Did anyone really want to read 30,000 words about how one work of Shakespeare was translated into French? Another gift now came to his rescue: music.


“I was eking out my student income at the time by accompanying 18-year-olds on the piano as they prepared auditions for drama school,” he said. “They seemed to have so much courage in taking on the big city, and just to be so much more alive. In the end it was irresistible, and I decided to have a shot at it myself.”


He won a place at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Swiss Cottage. “It was a furnace of a formation,” he remembers. “There was practice from eight in the morning until ten at night. Living in each other’s pockets and learning to trade in the currency of emotion.”


And the music came into play: violin, cello, accordion, penny whistle and learning to walk, legato or staccato, to the rhythm of the song silently playing in his head.


Dominic has performed Shakespeare in Brazil, acted in The Jungle Book and as the Mad Hatter, taken part in a sign language play in Derby and even helped to bring the great English playwright to China.


Dominic had been experimenting in a detached fashion with dating apps, but in September 2019 stumbled across a profile he felt excited about. The reality was even better than the avatar. “Jen was funny, and I  knew that you can’t be witty unless you are also clever,” he said.


Flying off to China looked like an unpromising way to nurture a budding romance, but whoever wrote this scene had something else in mind. A month into a Sino-Shakespearean adaptation, Covid-19 hit and Dominic caught the penultimate flight out. 


“So Jen’s planned visit to China morphed into a stay with her family in Zurich,” he said, “followed by one in a family cottage in Wereham, west Norfolk, and a seascape proposal on a rocky shore in Cumbria.” In June 2021 the couple moved to Norwich.


When he had been eight, it was the semi-finals of Euro 96 which struck the death blow to Dominic’s childhood faith. He prayed the England football team would win the penalty shoot-out against arch-rivals Germany, and they didn’t. Evidently the universe was missing a deity. 


Then one rainy night, when he was 17, he was driving fast along a road where foliage had overgrown a corner warning sign. Instead of the car following the laws of physics into a line of trees, it made a fishhook manoeuvre through a soft bush and into a field. He couldn’t explain it. 


He started to believe in the concept of God, but it was not until he was doing his Masters that the spark jumped between his head and his lifestyle. At that point the courage to audition rose up, and it all came together. Having moved to Norwich, Dominic and Jen joined The Garden, a network of small Christian communities which meet across the county and where he has plenty of opportunity to use his musical gifts.


Earlier this year, a friend who had played Jesus in a passion play in Surrey tipped him off that the company was looking for someone new to fill the role for the summer and Dominic auditioned successfully.


He played the role in a way which brought out the human struggles of Jesus, particularly in the Garden of Gethsemane scene, when Jesus is talking to God the Father about whether he must really go through the suffering of the Cross. 


“A dialogue grips the audience when the stakes are high,” said Dominic, “and the Garden of Gethsemane became an agonising tug of war between Jesus and his Father. It could have gone either way.” 


Of all the roles he has taken on, this is the one which has had the biggest impact on him.

You can see a photo gallery of Dominic’s acting here: dominicrye.com/acting


Picture of Dominic Rye by Ania Walisiewicz.








Eldred Willey, 30/11/2022

Read the full article here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *