Heads Up: The Passion

In Wales's green and pleasant land – the Easter story retold
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A suitably dramatic end to the National Theatre of Wales's launch year: a "theatre event" held at various non-theatre spaces across Port Talbot over Easter weekend. The show doesn't so much revive as reimagine the town's traditional Passion Play, offering a contemporary spin on the crucifixion story.

Elevator Pitch The greatest story ever told in Port Talbot.

Prime Movers It's a homecoming for Port Talbot's Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Damned United), who co-directs and stars. His fellow co-director is Bill Mitchell, former artistic director of Kneehigh Theatre and founder of Wildworks, which specialises in interactive events. Owen Shears, award-winning poet, novelist and the TV-friendly face of poetry for BBC Four's A Poet's Guide to Britain, has written the script.

The Stars Sheen is the big name, and he's joined by a professional cast of 14. Also starring, however, are the townspeople; more than a thousand will be involved as cast and crew.

The Early Buzz Wales on Sunday says that "Michael Sheen's character acting will be tested to the full when he plays a "Christ-like figure" who rescues his home town of Port Talbot ... his role promises to be the most gruelling of his life. [He] will be forced to carry a heavy solid wood cross three miles from the town's Station Road to Aberavon Beach [and will be] crucified near Neath Port Talbot Council's civic centre."

Insider Knowledge Sheen comes full circle with The Passion: he says that it was watching the town's passion play as a child that made him want to become an actor in the first place.

It's great that... According to local rumour, Sheen's girlfriend, Hollywood actress Rachel McAdams, and fellow Welsh actor Rob Brydon might be joining Sheen for "The Last Supper" at the Seaside Social and Labour Club in Sandfields.

It's a shame that... Sheen won't actually walk on water. Although a miraculous stunt had been planned at the Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, it's fallen foul of logistical difficulties.

Hit Potential It's only on for three days, and in a corner of the UK not often visited by avid theatregoers. But Welsh audiences have been well served by the NTW this year, and those with experience of previous shows – or tempted by starry names – will surely be willing to travel.

The Details Various venues around Port Talbot (nationaltheatrewales. org), 22 to 24 April.