|Written by:||Owen Sheers|
|Creative Director:||Michael Sheen|
|Run:||National Theatre Wales, Port Talbot
22 – 24 April 2011
|National Theatre Wales joins forces with WildWorks to bring Michael Sheen to his home town to lead an epic contemporary revival of the town’s community Passion Play as actor and creative director.Inspired by a year of story-gathering, poet Owen Sheers gives voice to the town’s tales of redemption, return, and faith in a three-day Easter event with the whole of Port Talbot as cast, crew and set.
Passion was a non-stop three day event from Good Friday, 22nd April until the evening of Easter Sunday, 24 April with Michael Sheen leading a cast of locals and travellers across the town celebrating the community of Port Talbot through the Passion story.
Taking place at various locations across the three days, from the beach to the shopping centre to the mountain, this series of theatrical events is a truly unique celebration. Many events were open to all, others have timed limited capacity.
A local teacher had disappeared 40 days previously. An interview with his worried mother had cropped up on YouTube. Footage of a bedraggled wanderer, captured on video or CCTV, went viral.
The Baptism: At dawn, on the morning of Good Friday the missing teacher reappeared on the long white strand at Aberavon, to be greeted by a dune dweller called the Stranger and treated to a marine cleansing in the freezing ocean.
His memory wiped, the Teacher became an empty vessel to be filled with stories of the town and its people. “Tell me your story” was the refrain. The portrait which emerged was of a town full of colourful individuals whose past was even now being erased by malign outside forces.
The Arrival: A nameless Company Man from ICU Industries, accompanied by armed guards, came ashore at the lifeboat slip that afternoon. A protester had strapped some explosives to a vest and placed it on a woman. The Teacher emerged from the crowd in time to dissuade the bomber from his violent insurrection, and thus became the focus for peaceful resistance. The bomber was arrested and The Teacher leaves with the woman.
The Announcement: Later that evening, to a chorus of jeers, ICU’s Company Man announced a second flyover to pass over the town. A woman in the crowd voices her displeasure and threatens to unite the crowd against their oppressors so she is shot by one of the armed guards.
The Teacher disappears back off up the mountain for the night.
The Resistance: The resistance demonstrated in the shopping centre and tried to persuade the crowd to join them in their fight against ICU.
The Raising: The crowd are split into two groups. One group is taken to the Underpass by St Mary’s Church, where they hear a story from a couple of homeless boys who live in the Underpass. There is a nearby cemetery where ethereal figures hover by the headstones. The boys searched for their mother’s grave. The Teacher appears and leads the boys away.
The Return: While the second group make their way towards the Underpass, the first group go to Llewellyn Street where years ago, one half of the street was flattened to make way for the M4 overpass. The Teacher meets and talks with the father of a young disabled girl.
Back at the Aberavon Shopping centre, The Teacher is confronted by his distraught mother, and his brother accuses him of lying about his memory loss.
The Supper: By Saturday evening, the Teacher had gathered about him a group of followers and headed to the Seaside Social and Labour Club for the last night of revelry before impending closure. As they sat at tables, shared sandwiches and toasted their new friendship – their oneness – with lager, an MC teed up entertainers – Kevin Johns, popular tenor Paul Potts, Iwan Rheon, Weird Naked Indians, and ‘house band’ The Manic Street Preachers. The Teacher and his friends line-danced to the songs until the Manics are manhandled by police and thrown out.
The Garden: The Teacher tells his mother and father that he is starting to remember. ICU arrive and arrest The Teacher, claiming that he is trying to set himself up as the King of Port Talbot. They arrest him, and he spends the night in a jail cell
The Trial: Sunday afternoon there is a trial Civic Square. The Company Man accuses The Teacher of resisting progress. They also have the bomber Barry on trial. A young girl is asked by the Company Man to pick one of the accused to be allowed to go free. She picks Barry. The Teacher is dragged to the Shopping Centre where he is brutally beaten and forced to wear a crown of barbed wire.
The Procession: Next followed a three-hour procession, the crowd wearing black, as the Teacher dragged his cross through streets of the town. The Teacher collapsed outside the Shopping Centre, and was carried in and laid on a makeshift platform. Here the woman of Port Talbot sang, as the Teacher’s mother washed the blood from his wounds.
The Cross: Darkness had long since descended as the Teacher, to the mournful sound of a brass band, was raised on the cross. And here, his howls were amplified across a sea of people,“I remember!” he screamed. “I remember!”
A litany of the things about Port Talbot that he did indeed remember: villages, streets, pubs, sweet shops, schoolfriends, clubs, mountains. With every freshly recognised name, cheers and even gales of laughter rose from the crowd.
Another hush descended and, in a final design coup, a thick wall of water behind the cross sprayed upwards to form a projection screen on which fleeting images of his past were flashed.
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