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Uncomfortable and compelling drama; REVIEW: The Sanger, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.

[bar] OR those of us who don't have loved ones serving in Afghanistan, the troops are our faceless heroes. This latest offering from Sherman Cymru gives us a chance to find out more about the real people risking their lives on the front line.

The Sanger is penned by Foster Marks who certainly knows what he's writing about - he served as a radio operator in the Territorial Army, completing two tours of Helmand Province.

In fact, he started pulling together the piece, which provides a snapshot of the humour, fears and effects of current operations, while in Afghanistan.

Staged in the intimate studio theatre of Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre, the drama is set on the base camp where four soldiers live. Danny, Simmo, Laze and Ben are like many typical lads who spend time together. They rib each other, talk about women and cover their wall with pictures of topless models.

But, unlike most groups of friends, they spend their days dodging bullets as they take on the Taliban.

The Sanger is both uncomfortable and compelling. We share the boys' delight as they receive parcels from back home containing letters and luxuries, like packets of their favourite sweets.

While they may show plenty of bravado, underneath they are only too aware of their mortality, particularly Danny (Gareth Pierce) who has left two young children behind. When he has a moment alone, he lets the tears flow, quickly brushing them away when one of his comrades reappears.

We see how they've befriended one of the locals, Saleem (Dean Rehman), who is secretly working for the British troops. And we laugh as they rush to grab their cameras to capture some of the bombing action. But, of course, you're aware that tragedy is just around the corner.

The Sanger is being staged alongside Welsh-language drama Tan Mewn Drain as part of Sherman Cymru's Raw project. The productions are stripped back so rather than feature elaborate sets and lighting the words are the main focus.

With a piece as powerful as this, words and some fine acting are all you need.[bar] Karen Price [bar] The Sanger/Tan Mewn Drain are at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff until tomorrow. The box office number is 029 2030 4400
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 10, 2011
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