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Stourbridge girl joins army ahead of Fringe show

A dancer is dusting off her boots and having a taste of life in enemy territory ahead of a Fringe festival performance.

Harriet Ellis, from Stourbridge, is set to take the stage in 5 Soldiers at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has taken part in a range of combat exercises with the army to prepare for the role.

The acclaimed dance production is set to take to the stage in August.

Joining the exercise allowed the Harriet to get direct experience of life in the army, the training and the camaraderie, and to see how the military trains for the stress and danger of conflict.

She said: “Women are taking an ever-more prominent role in the army and on the frontline and I think it’s important to look at the new opportunities that are opening up, and the challenges that can bring.

“Being here has really helped me understand what our soldiers go through. We’ve learned something about what it’s like to be in a forward base in a war zone, to be part of an ambush, to encounter a roadside bomb, and what happens when they come under artillery fire.

“All these things are real life to them but far outside most people’s experience, and exactly what we have to put across in our performances.”

The production, which is intensely physical and takes a compassionate look at what our society expects of soldiers, has a strong focus on the role of women.

The dancers discovered what it was like to be out on patrol in enemy territory, be part of an ambush, deal with a roadside bomb blast and undergo an artillery bombardment.

They also witnessed a live fire exercise involving heavy machine guns and grenades.

Captain Edward Mitchell, who helped look after the dancers while they were in the Galloway Forest, said: “This was an ideal opportunity for the dancers to see what soldiering is about, what really happens when we prepare for a tour of duty overseas and how soldiers learn to survive and fight in combat conditions.

“It’s also been an opportunity to chat with soldiers with very different levels of experience, some who joined relatively recently and others who have served in many situations and places.”

5 Soldiers was developed by choreographer Rosie Kay after detailed research, including two weeks with 4th Battalion The Rifles and later spending time at a military rehabilitation centre to learn about the effects of conflict.

Following its Fringe run the show will embark on a six-week tour of Army drill halls across the country, including a show at Birmingham REP.

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