An estimated 6,000 people flocked to Port Talbot yesterday to witness the drama of The Passion unfolding, with more expected today. The unique theatre production has brought the attention of the world to this community of contrasts, which has in the past been seen as ‘somewhere you just drive past’. Local people and tourists alike have been sharing their views of this historic weekend, and their hopes that The Passion will help to change perceptions about their tight-knit town.
Boyd Clack, writer, actor and musician
“The performance was absolutely fantastic. Just imagine the logistical problems and the impossibilities of rehearsing. The idea for the play was beautiful and the performance effectively captured a fascist state through the company. Michael is one of the world’s greatest actors and has had a tremendous amount of success. I have only met him a couple of times but he is an incredibly good man and he does a lot to put Wales on the map. Port Talbot has gone through a difficult time with the decline of industrialisation, something of this artistic merit and magnitude can only be good for the community.”
Sarah Winning, 30, Port Talbot
“I think The Passion is pretty good, it was nice to go down the beach and see some different. Nothing happens in Port Talbot, so something like this is amazing and it brings the community together.”
Paul Hibbert, 40, Manchester
“I am from Manchester originally but I now live in Port Talbot. It’s great to be a part of the action and to feel a part of the community, and for the community to meet a Hollywood star of course.”
Beryl, 61, and Jeffrey Rees, 64, Port Talbot
“What do I think? Very good, interesting and different. We live just across the road from Aberavon Beach, The Passion has brought a sense of togetherness to the community.”
William Gibbs, 66, Abergavenny
“The Passion has been very interesting so far and I’ve enjoyed it. I thought the first scene at Aberavon Beach could have done with a little more drama, but overall it has been good and it has involved the community. I played Pontius Pilate in a passion play in Cardiff but today has been quite different to that experience.”
Paul Capel, 44, and Sara Bevan, 38, Port Talbot
“I have to be honest, I didn’t really see the performance because of the amount of people watching. But it’s great what Michael Sheen has done for the community. My son is only two years old and he hasn’t a clue what is going on, he just thinks we’ve come down for a day on the beach.”
Andy Feculak, 43, Swansea
“After watching the segment at the civic centre, the story is starting to make sense and I am finding it intriguing. It has made people hear and see good things about Port Talbot. It has bought the right sort of culture to Port Talbot, I wouldn’t have come to the town otherwise – ha ha.”
Jenny Pontkins, 26, Port Talbot
“The play was alright, it’s nice to see people getting involved and it has been an intriguing story. I didn’t have that many expectations, but a lot of people have come down which is good for the town. I don’t think it will change Port Talbot much, but I hope it makes more people aware of us.”
Jan Hines, 43, Port Talbot
“Today has been amazing, it is nice to see people getting involved. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but it has been very interesting. I hope that it will bring positive change to the town.”
Suzanne Meredith, Brave Project
“I work for the Brave Project organisation and we have been helping with the scene on Sunday. Michael Sheen came down to our centre in Port Talbot and met some of the women and children we have been working with. He was brought to tears by one little boy. He said that the work the Brave Project are doing is a miracle.”
Barry Miles, 40, Victoria Road, Port Talbot
“I hope that the play will put the town on the map. People criticise Port Talbot for our industry, but we have a lot to offer. Saturday and Sunday will be amazing, it has already gone beyond our expectations.”
Taxi driver Steve Meskill, who is from Port Talbot and works for Cardy Cabs, said: “This puts our town on the map. It hasn’t really made life any more difficult for us as taxi drivers and in fact it’s brought in trade, particularly yesterday and today. It’s been really good”.
Jane Harwood, from Taibach, Port Talbot, said felt the event could bring nothing but good for the town: “It’s brought a lot of people in and the town and beach have been packed and really busy. I think it’s going to bring in a lot of business.
“This is the first bit of The Passion I’ve seen and I don’t know if I understand it, but I think the atmosphere is great. My parents saw it yesterday and they think the whole thing was enjoyable.
“I think Michael Sheen has put the town on the map. It’s strange to see your town featuring so much on the TV.
Natalie Williams, who also lives and works in Port Talbot, added: “I know a lot of the youngsters involved and it’s great fun for them, but also great for them to be given a chance and get the guidance of people like Michael Sheen. I think it is amazing what he is giving back to the town and it’s going to be so good for the town in the long run.”
Phil Waters, a performer at the event in the band The Long Agos that is busking as part of The Resistance to ICU, said they were trying to give their community a voice once again. “Our songs are very angry about the way society has changed and how our freedoms are being taken way and against the way our community is being treated“ he said.
“This is having an amazing impact on the town and in bringing everyone together. Nothing like it has happened before and it probably won’t happen again.
“It has been an excellent opportunity for all the local bands to enjoy a lot more exposure.”