Audiences at six performances were warned there would be flashing lights, smoke effects and loud noises inside the church.
They were certainly not disappointed: a series of gripping filmed sequences and live performances stepped back in time to tell the history of Barnet.
Dramatic flashes and sounds of a 1944 air raid captured the moment the east window of the church was blown out in the Second World War and a puffing steam engine pulled into a re-named “Hadley Wood” station on the Bluebell Heritage railway line.
The Saturday night finale (23.11.2019) – sold out in advance weeks ahead – ended with the ceremonial lighting of the Monken Hadley church beacon.
Guiding the audience through the first act were two American visitors, Carole (played by Claire Fisher) and Anne (Siobhan Dunne), from St Mary’s church in Chappaqua, New York State, which was completed in 1906 to replicate the design of St Mary the Virgin Monken Hadley.
Life in Victorian Monken Hadley was re-enacted under the guidance of rector and historian, the Reverend Dr Frederick Charles Cass (played by Nick Reed) who explained the relevance of various church artefacts as he gave a history lesson to children from Monken Hadley.
A hermitage on the site of the church dated back to 1136, and after it was thought the first church was damaged in the Battle of Barnet of 1471, was restored in 1494.
As we see this wonderful church through the eyes of those who have trodden these floors over the centuries
St Mary’s became a beacon church because at 470ft above sea level, Monken Hadley was a beacon hill, the highest point between London and York on the original great north road.
Among the other local personalities brought to life were Captain Charles Tempest-Hicks (played by Charlie Fisher), awarded the military cross, who was killed in the Battle of Amiens in August 1918.
He read out a letter sent to his parents in which he expressed the hope that he and his troops would soon be able to “dream of victory” and signed off “your loving son, Charles”.
Sarah Lloyd-Winder took the role of Lady Mary Wilbraham, wife of Sir Roger Wilbraham, who in 1616 built the nearby Wilbraham’s alms houses in Hadley Green Road for “six decayed housekeepers”.
One of the most dramatic sequences was a filmed re-construction of events surrounding the Battle of Barnet which included images of the re-enactment staged in the summer during the annual Barnet Medieval festival.
Footage from the re-enactment was filmed under the direction of Bill Morris, the producer/director of Son et Lumiere 525 Live, who said the aim of the cast and production team was to take the audience on a voyage through the last 1,000 years of local history.
“As we see this wonderful church through the eyes of those who have trodden these floors over the centuries, we can be rightly proud that we, by our presence within these walls, are contributing to the rich and varied frame work around which our local community thrives today.”
Mr Morris, who lives in Hadley Wood and is a member of the church choir, is an award-winning television outside broadcast producer, and it was under his direction that filming took place this summer and voice overs were recorded.
After a welcome each evening from the rector, the Reverend Dr Thomas Renz, performances were opened by the patron of the event, Martin Russell, deputy lieutenant for Barnet.
Proceeds were in aid of an appeal for the cost of strengthening and refurbishing the church house hall and Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice.