LONDON (AFP) – "Frost/Nixon" actor Michael Sheen was giving a 72-hour live performance of The Passion over the Easter weekend, bringing the final hours of Jesus Christ's life to his home town.

Sheen, who played interviewer David Frost in the 2008 Oscar-nominated film, was giving the marathon performance in Port Talbot, an industrial town on the south Wales coast.

The show has taken over the town, with more than 1,000 locals playing roles as the action runs from location to location across Port Talbot and its beach.

The play began at 5:30am on Good Friday with a seafront scene inspired by John the Baptist's baptism of Jesus.

Thousands gathered at 3:00pm on the beach for the first main part of the play and Sheen provoked gasps when he emerged from the crowd sporting a scruffy beard and shaggy hair, wearing a blue top and a red blanket.

After a powerful speech which moved one woman to tears, he melted back into the audience and walked off down the beach towards the steelworks, before spending the night sleeping rough on a mountain outside the town.

"There's episodes of the story over the three days, and in between those official episodes there's other stuff going on but you just have to go and look for it," Sheen told ITV television.

"It's a story that is absolutely about the town now, but it is underpinned by the story of the last week of Jesus."

Sheen was to spend Saturday evening eating a Last Supper of beer and sandwiches at the Seaside Social and Labour Club -- where Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers will also perform.

He will then be locked in the cells at the town's police station for the night, before being "crucified" on a roundabout overlooking Port Talbot bay on Easter Sunday.

The marathon drama is the finale to National Theatre Wales's launch year.

The Port Talbot area has produced some of Britain's finest actors, including Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins, but the town has fallen victim to industrial decline.