In a rehearsal studio at the Za-Koenji theater in west-central Tokyo's Koenji district, trainee actress Yuuhi Suenobu was striving to act the role of a frightened young woman wandering aimlessly in a chaotic wasteland with her injured mother.

The scene unfolding before me was from "The War Plays," a 1983-85 masterpiece by the iconic antiestablishment playwright Edward Bond that every final-year student at Za-Koenji's Theater Creation Academy has had to take part in as their graduation challenge since the two-year course at Suginami Ward's public theater began in 2009.

Running to eight hours in all, Bond's dystopian trilogy set after a nuclear war will be staged in one performance on the opening day at Za-Koenji next month, and in two halves on consecutive days after that.