Afghanistan training village turns theatre for play

Image caption, The village is normally used to train soldiers for the conflict in Afghanistan

An empty Brecon Beacons village normally used to train troops for the conflict in Afghanistan is being turned temporarily into a theatre.

The military training area in the Epynt hills will stage the National Theatre Wales production of Aeschylus's The Persians later this month.

Audiences will be bussed into Cilieni in Powys to watch the tragedy unfold in a contemporary setting.

Director Mike Pearson said it was the most "exciting location" for the drama.

He first spotted the potential of the military village three years ago while working on a project for another company,

When he started work on The Persians, he said he realised the stark setting, rarely seen by civilians, was "completely appropriate".

The tragedy, National Theatre Wales' sixth production, tells the story of the return to his homeland of the defeated Persian king, Xerxes.

This version of the play had been written by award-winning playwright Kaite O'Reilly.

Mr Pearson said because of the setting, numbers attending each performance will be limited to 140 maximum and they will be collected at nearby Sennybridge.

"We will have 140 ponchos in case of bad weather," he said.

The theatregoers will be watching the action in a dramatic setting of a military house without walls, amid burned-out tanks and spent shell cases.

The actors will also make use of broadcast technology so that the audience will be able to see private conversations, Mr Pearson explained.

The version of the classic play will run from 11 to 21 August, and stars Sian Thomas, who appeared in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2007, and recently performed in the award-winning West End musical Spring Awakening.

Defence Training Estate spokesman Major (Rtd) Ed Mahony said: "We were delighted to help the National Theatre Wales when they approached us about staging this production.

Operational deployment

"It offers us a valuable opportunity to work with the wider community and help us get our message about the importance of military training out to a large audience.

"The training which takes place here is vital in preparing troops for deployment to Afghanistan and the training area itself is well known for its harsh environment.

"Soldiers know that if you can fight and look after yourself here, you will survive any operational deployment you may find yourself in."

He added: "Those members of the public who are lucky enough to be coming along to see 'The Persians' will get a unique opportunity to see a piece of the military estate which most people don't get to experience.

"I think the fact that the production is already sold out is an indication of how unique this choice of venue is."

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