A FORMER Abergavenny pupil has written a large-scale production commemorating the bitter battle for Mametz Wood in which 4,000 Welsh soldiers were killed or wounded.

Owen Sheers, who attended King Henry VIII Comprehensive, wrote the site-specific production ‘Mametz’ for the National Theatre Wales to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Mametz Wood was the scene of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Somme. Gwent soliders were among the 38th (Welsh) Division which secured one of the pivotal victories of the Great War.

It is poignant for the poet as among the soldiers who took part in the five day battle, which began on July 7, 1916 were several key Welsh and English war poets, including Robert Graves, David Jones, Siegfried Sassoon and Llewelyn Wyn Griffith and Sheer’s own great great uncle, William Cross.

The play will be staged at Great Llancayo Upper Wood, near Usk in June and will give audiences a vivid glimpse into life-and death-in the trenches and battlefields of the Somme.

The poet, author and scriptwriter adapted his first novel ‘Resistance’ to a screenplay of the same name which starred Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen. His latest book ‘Pink Mist’ (poetry based on stories from the Iraq War) was released in 2013. Mr Sheers also wrote the script and novelisation (The Gospel of Us) for The Passion, National Theatre Wales and Wildworks’ production in Port Talbot starring and directed by Michael Sheen.

Mr Sheers said: “Having worked with National Theatre Wales on The Passion it’s great to be collaborating again on such an ambitious and exciting project. The battle of Mametz Wood occupies such a significant place in Welsh history, to bring its story alive in a part of the country from which so may of the soldiers who fought there would have come promises to be very powerful. The production is also a wonderful opportunity to shed more light on two of the best writers to have fought in WWI, Llewelyn Wyn Griffith and David Jones.”

The production will be directed by Matthew Dunster with documentary filmmaker, Christopher Morris as creative associate. Mr Morris joined Newport Film School in 2003 and is Professor of Documentary Film Practice at the University of South Wales.

The National Theatre Wales production is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The cast has yet to be announced.

The production will run between June 24 and July 5, except Sundays. Tickets are £20/£15 and go on sale on April 4 from www.wmc.org.uk