Wales

Michael Sheen Passion film, The Gospel of Us, premieres at Port Talbot

  • 9 April 2012
  • From the section Wales

Actor Michael Sheen has attend the world premiere in Port Talbot of the film version of his biblical passion play set in the town.

A cast of more than 1,000 people joined the Hollywood star in three days of open air performances of The Passion across his hometown last Easter.

The 145-minute film, The Gospel of Us, was screened on Easter Sunday at the Apollo Cinema.

The cinema said demand for tickets had led it to show the film on six screens.

Thousands flocked to the south Wales coastal town over the Easter weekend last year to watch the marathon project, staged by National Theatre Wales and Wildworks, and many more watched it live online.

The project earned widespread media coverage and won enthusiastic reviews from critics.

Sheen performed sequences on Port Talbot's beaches, hills and streets, including "The Trial" at Civic Square, "The Procession" at Station Road and "The Cross" on Aberavon seafront.

Twelve professional actors also took part in the performances, which were co-directed by Sheen and Bill Mitchell.

The 12A certificate film, directed by Dave McKean and scripted by Owen Sheers, weaves together the original dramatic scenes.

Eve Carter, the cinema's assistant manager, said they were very proud to be hosting the premiere.

"It was a phenomenal event. It was massive. The whole community got behind it.

Michael Sheen performing The Passion

"We've had to open all six screens because of the demand for tickets was so high, and it's pretty much sold out.

"It seems even more popular this Easter than it was last Easter. I think people are hoping to see themselves on the screen."

The film will also be shown at the cinema each evening from Monday to Thursday before going on UK-wide release from 13 April.

'Memory exhibition'

To mark a year since the original performances, National Theatre Wales (NTW) is hosting a free multimedia "memory exhibition" in Aberafan Shopping Centre over the Easter weekend.

Sheen has encouraged anyone who took part in, or saw, the event is encouraged to visit the exhibition to scan in their photographs and share their favourite memories of it.

These will then become part of the display.

Speaking as he visited the centre on Sunday morning, he said seeing the exhibition stirred the same emotions he felt while performing The Passion last Easter.

"The feeling like this is a Passion event again started making me feel all the feelings I had last year," he said.

"Walking around looking at the photographs that people have taken and things that people have written, it's kind of overwhelming again.

"It was such a moving experience, such a powerful experience and such a communal experience last year and the idea this year was to try and get a sense of that again and see what's happened since."

He said he hoped the play would inspire other communities to get together to create their own performances, but added they would need to have "extraordinary" people like those living in Port Talbot.

"It was unique globally - no-one had ever done anything on this scale," he said.

"There are passion plays, obviously, there are site specific events and there are communal events, but no-one had ever done all those things combined on such a huge scale."

He added: "It was a completely new thing for everyone and, as such, we didn't really know what we were doing or what the effect would be or how it would affect people, so I think if it inspires people to do something similar, that's brilliant."

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