The finale to the fledgling National Theatre's first year sees the multi award-winning actor return to his home town to star and direct in the play, which will be scripted by Owen Sheers and co-directed by former artistic director of Kneehigh Theatre Bill Mitchell.
The Passion, which builds on the Port Talbot tradition which saw a passion play staged in the town ever year until 1998, is a three-day non-stop event which will start on the afternoon of Good Friday (22 April) and end on Easter Sunday evening (24 April 2011) with action taking place across the town.
Across the weekend are programmed events which run only once but around them will be constant unscheduled activity. Audiences can choose to attend one, some, or all of the weekend events with National Theatre Wales adding some audience members may catch "unexpected surprises".
The cast of 13 professional local actors who will appear alongside Sheen has today been announced as: Matthew Aubrey, Nigel Barrett, Jordan Bernarde, Di Botcher, Darren Lawrence, John-Paul Macleod, Rhys Matthews, Francine Morgan, Kristian Phillips, Kyle Rees, Hywel Simons, David Rees Talbot, and Matthew Woodyatt with the character of the outsider will be played by Gerald Tyler. More than a thousand local volunteer cast members will also perform in the production.
Michael Sheen's most recent London stage credit Frost/Nixon transferred to the West End, Broadway and the big screen. He makes his return to the London stage later this year to take the title role in Hamlet at the Young Vic. Sheen's notable stage performances include Look Back in Anger, Caligula and as Mozart in the West End production of Peter Hall’s revival of Amadeus.
Sheen's co-director Bill Mitchell has worked with The Young Vic, Bristol Old Vic, Welfare State, Walk the Plank, the National Theatre and Kneehigh Theatre where he was artistic director from 1997 to 2005. Mitchell took inspiration from large site-specific landscape-theatre projects Kneehigh were producing and in 2005 created his own company WildWorks who co-produce The Passion.
Speaking at the announcement of National Theatre Wales' first year of programming in November 2009 Sheen recalled: "I first saw the Passion Play in Port Talbot when I was about 12. It was a story I knew coming to life in front of me. A ritual taking place before me. A town remembering itself through a story."