It's been a long wait, but Vamos Theatre Company will be bringing their latest production to Hereford on February 25 for a chilled performance of A Brave Face.

"The thing about mask," says Vamos founder and artistic director Rachael Savage, "is that it's accessible for everybody and speaks to everybody. And it's a bizarre genre of theatre that can resonate with so many people on so many levels."

And as with Vamos's previous shows Finding Joy and The Best Thing, A Brave Face tackles a painful subject with the aim of bringing, in this case, post-traumatic stress among the military into the open, to tell the stories of veterans, to show what life is really like for everyone affected

"I always want to tell stories that need to be told," says Rachael, adding that the research for a Vamos production takes about two years - "It's long," she says, "and often very painful. I work hard to gain the trust of those who have so generously shared their stories. We've been sharing draft after draft of A Brave Face with soldiers. Particularly one bloke, Ray Anderton, who's helped the story of Ryan with all his insight and years of living with post traumatic stress. The help at every stage has been just incredible and the production owes so much to their experience.

Having previously tackled dementia and teenage pregnancy, what inspired Rachael to explore post traumatic stress in Vamos's distinctive full-mask style? "I read a news story about Danny Fitzsimmons, whose family only recognised there was a problem when he hid in a wheelie bin," she says. "How could someone be so frightened that the only safe place was a wheelie bin and how does it feel as a mother to witness that?"

I also read an amazing book, called Aftershock (The Untold Story of Surviving Peace) by Matthew Green, who talks in his first chapter about a veteran whose trauma was watching the death of his best mate.

"It's not that all military personnel come back scarred, some have a smooth transition into civilian life, and yet dozens have suffered mentally as they have for decades and they continue to battle back home.

"The army gives massive levels of training as you go in, but nothing as you leave. I was blissfully ignorant and bloody naive, says Rachael, who goes on to say that when the show went into rehearsals there were veterans in the room and the run-through proved very emotional - "one bloke said 'how have you got inside my head, how do you know how I feel?' and another veteran's wife said 'that's my story', and another said they'd never seen a more accurate portrayal of post traumatic stress and its impact on lives.

At one point, someone said to me 'civilians don't want to hear my story', and I told him 'I do.' And the priority is telling that story accurately."

Ultimately, says Rachael, the question Vamos shows pose is 'where's the hope?' and 'I have searched for it deliberately."

The fact is that more veterans have now committed suicide than were killed on the battlefield, and it's been worse this year than ever before. It's certainly not getting any better."

My main objective with A Brave Face is to make civilians feel they have to take more responsibility for people coming back into civilian life - and 16-18,000 leave the military every year."The work I have been doing with people has changed my opinion. I respect them hugely and I didn't used to.

Never afraid to tackle the challenging subjects, Rachael reveals that the next show will again explore a subject we don't often examine too closely - called Dead Good, she'll be looking at death.

In March Rachael will be running a further mask-making residency with veterans. "It's very practical, and I give very clear orders and they carry it out incredibly well and accurately and wanted to do it in the most efficient way possible. Such an amazing two days. In making masks people would then talk about how we hide behind masks. The workshop will be in Worcester on March 23 and 24, and is free to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress.

A Brave Face tells the story of Ryan, who joined the army to see the world, learn a trade, get a life. But he sees things he can't unsee, things he can't talk about, to anyone and then when he returns home, the trouble really begins.

A Brave Face will be at The Courtyard on Monday, February 25 at 7.30pm. To book, call the box office on 01432 340555 or visit