Hollywood star Michael Sheen’s ‘deep respect’ for Port Talbot community work
HOLLYWOOD star Michael Sheen has spoken of his deep respect for people in his hometown of Port Talbot who despite being hit by cuts continue to work in the community to help others.
The actor, who will be performing The Passion live in the town over Easter weekend, said he believed those doing miraculous work in organisations helping the most vulnerable needed to be protected.
Michael said a visit to St Peter's Basilica, in Rome, 18 months ago, where he studied images of Jesus helping youngsters and the sick, made him realise the good work being carried out in Port Talbot today.
His visit also made him decide what he wanted to do with the production, which is inspired by the Passion of Christ — although he said he was not particularly religious.
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Speaking at the Laugharne Festival, in Carmarthenshire, the Baglan star said: "There's a chapel in there (St Peter's Basilica) called St Joseph and I was surrounded by the iconography of Jesus with children and the sick.
"I thought there are people in my town doing that every day. They are the people bizarrely who get paid the least."
He told the audience, which included his Hollywood actress girlfriend Rachel McAdams, at the Millennium Hall that there were many organisations, including WGCADA, a drug and alcohol abuse centre, and Women's Aid, which works with victims of domestic abuse, who were changing lives.
Michael said after talking to people who worked with children, some of whom had mothers who were victims of domestic abuse, he realised the tremendous impact that the organisation was having on people's lives.
"There was a boy who would go around hitting people and when they started working with him he was violent," he said.
"But after a year he was transformed — he has now gone out of there to live the rest of his life. There are people doing things like that every single day — that's miraculous."
The actor, who has played a variety of TV and film roles including Sir David Frost, Tony Blair, Brian Clough and Kenneth Williams, added: "Because of the recession, the cuts are coming to people who are not supported enough — this needs standing up for."
His comments won rapturous applause from the festival audience.
The star has linked up with numerous organisations, groups and residents, to ensure there is a community involvement in the production.
Michael said since turning 40 he was now more interested in getting involved in projects which were more meaningful to him — such as The Passion.
He said the production, which is scripted by the Welsh author Owen Shears, would officially start on Aberavon Beach on Good Friday at 3pm, but unofficially at dawn on the dunes. It will conclude there on Easter Sunday night.
Other scenes will take place in Port Talbot's Civic Square, Llewellyn Street, the town centre underpass, with a procession taking place on Easter Sunday from Station Road to the beach ready for the finale.
Most of the scenes, which are being simultaneously filmed by cult director and artist Dave McKean, are free but people can buy wristbands to guarantee the best views.
There is a separate ticketed event for one scene, The Supper, which takes place in the Seaside Social and Labour Club in Dalton Road on Saturday night, and will feature the Manic Street Preachers.
"Anyone who comes up will be part of the show," Michael said.
"I am constantly reminded it's a journey and the process that's important is to be part of the community."
He said the production would be "a one-off opportunity".
"I'm hoping the legacy of it is that people will have more awareness about the town," he said.
"When they go around the roundabout on the beach people will think I was crucified on it — and the greatest story ever told happened in that town."