National Theatre Wales’ Coriolanus in St Athan hangar

An aircraft hangar in the Vale of Glamorgan has become the stage for a multimedia Shakespeare production.

National Theatre Wales will put on a modern day-take of Coriolanus as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

The audience will mingle with actors in the disused hangar at RAF St Athan, moving around, watching TV screens and listening to action on headphones.

The theatre group, which previously staged a play on a Brecon MoD base, begins Coriolanus on Wednesday.

The play draws inspiration from the 24-hour news and CCTV culture of today’s world, along with its political instability and civil unrest.

It is directed by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes, who won critical acclaim in 2010 for their adaptation of the Greek tragedy, Aeschlusa’s The Persians, which was staged at the Sennybridge military training range in Brecon, Powys.

The audience will form the crowd of the play and will be able to move around the hangar as the production progresses, watching scenes from different viewpoints on TV screens around the large arena.

Hangar 858 at RAF St Athan Hangar 858 at RAF St Athan has a runway outside but is no longer used by the military

Lucy Davies, the play’s executive producer, said the vast 90m x 50m hangar was central to creating the atmosphere needed for the production.

“The scale was a big part of it. We wanted somewhere big,” she said.

“We had looked at industrial units but there’s something about a hangar. It even has a runway outside.

“The fact it’s military brings a lot of atmosphere to it. That’s what you bring to the audience – we think a lot about the audience experience.

“Usually a building is a very uniform experience but the space in a hangar has a fantastic feel – it’s like a huge public arena that we can drive cars and a transit van around. You can sense you’re really in the middle of all the action.”

Mr Pearson added: “It allows us to use techniques that would be impossible in an auditorium so we can use vehicles, projections, in-ear sound… simply because of the scale of the building.”

Large-scale productions

Ms Davies said the Ministry of Defence had been happy for them to use the hangar as it was decommissioned and located outside the St Athans military base.

Ten cameras will be used inside to pick up all of the action from different angles, with the footage mixed and broadcast on two big screens.

Rehearsals inside the hangar at St Athan Actors will be filmed by 10 cameras and broadcast on two big screens

The audience will also be given headphones to wear to hear the actors and other sounds.

Since it was founded in November 2009, National Theatre Wales has staged a number of large-scale productions, such as The Passion, which starred Hollywood actor Michael Sheen and was put on over 72 hours at various locations around Port Talbot.

But Ms Davies said the aim of the theatre group was not to make each production “bigger and better”.

“I think it’s about getting it right,” she said.

“Any time we have taken over Port Talbot or a beach it’s because it’s right for the show.

“The moment it starts to a feel like a gimmick we’re doing something wrong.

“It’s about being free to add layers to an audience experience.”

The play, which stars Brendan Charleson, Jonny Glynn and Nia Gwynne, is being staged from Wednesday, 8 August until 11 August, along with 15 and 18 August.

Sourced by BBC

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