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National Theatre Wales on stage at army base

By Stephanie West

Updated on 11 August 2010

The intermittent sound of gunfire will provide a backdrop to a new production from the National Theatre Wales, writes Channel 4 News reporter Stephanie West.

Scene from the Persians by National Theatre Wales

It's unavoidable, because the play is being staged in the middle of an army firing range, in a replica village built in the heart of the beautiful but challenging terrain of the Brecon Beacons.

Having no permanent home, the newly established National Theatre Wales has to borrow venues for its productions, for which it has around a million pounds a year to perform.

To date it has staged plays in converted miners' institutes, even on Prestatyn Beach. 

But when he was considering staging The Persians, a Greek tragedy about the pity of war, this production's director Mike Pearson remembered a visit to the Sennybridge Army Training Centre for another project several years earlier.

Specifically, he'd been allowed to see a fake village at the centre of the 31,000 acres of military training land, where soldiers learn how to secure hostile areas. 

And so he asked the military to allow him to stage his latest play there. They agreed, and for twelve nights in the middle of August, every night 140 civilians will be bussed by convoy up to the fake village to watch the production.

But as up to 15,000 soldiers train on this land every week, there will still be exercises going on as the actors take to the stage.

Scene from The Persians performed by National Theatre Wales
Scene from The Persians performed by National Theatre Wales

Military bosses have used this area to train soldiers for The Falklands right up to Afghanistan, and say if soldiers can survive these bleak conditions, they can survive anywhere.

And so, because the weather conditions can be bleak and change at a moment's notice, cagoules are being issued to the audience.

But any rain will be more than worth the astonishing views, and it is a fitting backdrop.  The play, written by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus in 472 BC, is about ancient battles.

Considered to be the oldest recorded play, it focuses on the return of a defeated Persian king, Xerxes, and blames his losses on his unrealistic expectations and hubris.

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