Songs of loss and resistance

24 April 2011

THE Aberavon Seaside Social and Labour Club has never seen a night quite like it.

The Garden scene

The Teacher - Michael Sheen - says goodbye to his family. Credit Ingrid Bousquet

For just one night Hollywood A-listers, top bands including performers such as The Manic Street Preachers and local singer Paul Potts all played their part in “The Supper” – a dramatic unfolding of events in National Theatre Wales and Michael Sheen’s production of The Passion.
It was night of intense emotion and drama with hundreds being part of it inside the club and thousands outside who followed the events on screen and live in the street next to where they all stood.
It saw the day end with the arrest of The Teacher – Michael Sheen – and him taken off to spend a night in the cells, amid exultant and exuberant support for him and derision and hatred for the ICU squads who took him away.

ICU at The Garden

The head of ICU security prepares to arrest The Teacher. Credit Ingrid Bousquet

The whole drama at the club added immensely to the production. The night’s theme was loss and resistance with powerful performances from all.
The narrative fitted the events perfectly and built up to the powerful conclusion.
There was humour, sadness and defiance in equal measure, and the music ranged from songs of loss performed superbly by Paul Potts and Iwan Rheon to songs of resistance from the Manic Street Preachers and Weird Naked Indian.
The Manics’ set of three songs – Motorcycle Emptiness, If you Tolerate this and Design for Life – all suited the occasion and script perfectly.
Design for Life had new lyrics for this one-off performance. Paul Potts and The Manics deservedly received standing ovations. The Manics were appearing as “The House Band” for the evening and very nearly brought the house down as they played Design for Life and appealed for people to “open up your hearts and open up your minds”.
But it was Weird Naked Indian from Port Talbot who had the whole cast and much of the audience dancing – a spectacular sight of interactive theatre – in resistance to ICU and in defence of the community.
Outside the play was continuing simultaneously and screams were heard as the Seaside Social and Labour Club was raided by ICU squads.

Later, as the scene moved outside to “The Garden” the head of ICU security berated Michael Sheen as The Teacher and said to the crowd “Is this man your king?” , to which the assembled thousands shouted out as one that he was their king. The hissing and jeering when The Teacher was arrested were deafening and the whole spectacle was gripping.
Michael Sheen may not have aspirations to be a king but the sensational impact The Passion is having on the town of Port Talbot has made him a real champion of his community – a champion who is raising its standing and sense of resistance against injustice.
As Michael Sheen said in his character as The Teacher: “Yesterday we were many. Today we are one.”

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Carol Brown says:

Brilliant coverage PortTalbotMagnet Really good journalism