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Almost in the line of fire

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 12:34 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

It has to be one of my most surreal experiences to date - the oldest existing European drama performed in the open air where the army do their training.

Yes, it's National Theatre Wales' new production. The play is a newly worked version of The Persians by the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus. The setting: a training area that I learned was called FIBUA (that stands for Fighting in Built-Up Areas) up on the military's training ranges in the Brecon Beacons. FIBUA is a reconstructed village where the army learn how to deal with urban warfare - searching houses, dodging snipers and so on.

The Persians (photograph: Toby Farrow)

The training house on the military range (photograph: Toby Farrow)

Obviously this is not a venue you can just turn up at. The meet point is the army camp at Sennybridge where an officer warns you not to pick up or kick any ammunition or grenades you might find lying around as they could still be live.

No danger of me doing that, I muttered, but apparently everyone needs to be warned as human instinct leads most people to pick up discarded ammo and say "look what I've found". I may be curious and daft but the great big yellow streak of cowardice that runs right through me is protection from that kind of danger!

I spoke to actor and director Sian Thomas about the play on yesterday's Radio Wales Arts Show. Here's a clip from the interview:

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The cast, led by Royal Shakespeare Company star Sian Thomas and directed by Mike Pearson, have grown more used to the surroundings and the gunfire and other sounds of the army's regular exercises, although they have provided a sometimes strange soundtrack for rehearsals.

The Persians (photograph: Toby Farrow)

The chorus (photograph: Toby Farrow)

The play itself is about war and perhaps it's only the technology that's changed since it was written in 472 BC.


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