Wales: a Zombie Nation?
Rachel Trezise interviews Michael Sheen

From Planet 229

by Rachel Trezise

Rachel Trezise joins Michael Sheen in his hometown of Port Talbot for a walk along Aberavon beach. They discuss what it is like to move between the worlds of Hollywood and radical Welsh socialism, and how to unite a disenfranchised and demoralised country.

On Easter Sunday, 2011, Michael Sheen was being raised on a cross on the Four Winds roundabout in Aberavon while thousands of people looked on, mesmerised. His address to them began, ‘I remember!’ before he heaved a recital of names and places, a litany of Port Talbot memories: ‘The Forge Road Baths! Selwyn Jenkins! Nights at the Starlight!’ I remember being in that crowd with my friend, novelist Niall Griffiths, and the moment, earlier in the day when we joined the cavalcade. Sheen had been dragging his eleven-foot cross five miles through the town by then. He’d been in character for the National Theatre Wales production The Passion for seventy-two hours and he looked like shit. I realised that distinguishing between art and reality had become futile, that this was more than theatre, that it had developed into something else. I didn’t know what exactly, but I loved it. I wrote a review article for Planet about the weekend and my own connections to Port Talbot, which had recently been re-kindled following a reconciliation with my father and his family there. In the article, presumably worried that once the production was over, south Wales would then return to the largely forgotten place it was before he’d emerged from the sea on Good Friday, I wrote, rather snootily of his litany: ‘One would hope these are the kinds of things Sheen remembers while eating poolside breakfasts in the Hollywood hills.’

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