Theatrical archaeology meets real archaeology in Hoard – Rediscovered as the New Vic Theatre revisit their Staffordshire Hoard Festival for the streaming age
“The archaeologists have of course found no evidence of dragons”
After a weekend immersed in the plummy accents of The Crown, it was wonderfully refreshing to counter-balance that with the everyday cadences of blessedly much more regular folk in Hoard – Rediscovered. Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre has a rich tradition of verbatim work and with this characterful addition to theatre’s necessary shift to the streaming world, there’s quite the digital treasure trove in store.
Hoard – Rediscovered sees the New Vic revisit their 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival, a celebration of new writing focused on the remarkable discovery of a mighty hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in a field in 2009. Written and directed by New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins, Unearthed is a verbatim docu-drama that shifts the attention away from the thousands of pieces of treasure to focus on the stories of the real people whose lives it impacted.
It is a beautifully constructed piece, full of wry humour from the unassuming metal-detectorist who struck lucky to the historians struck dumb by the historical significance of the find. Heskins’ choice to opt for the documentary style pays dividends given the way the secrets of the hoard are painstakingly pieced together (or not, as the case may be), allowing all sorts of human details to shine through, aided by a set of creatively filmed, vibrant performances from the original cast.
Unearthed is supplemented by a suite of 11 short monologues that were originally performed as intimate table plays. Here, an impressive roll call of writers – Tom Wells, Sam Adamson, April De Angelis, actual Alan Garner! – take advantage of how little is really known about the treasure to spin off highly imaginative stories inspired by the hoard. From the dragon who protected it to the woman who lived her whole life next to the field where it was found, it is an inspired way of riffing on the subject and Gemma Fairlie’s direction of these mini-plays captures this eclectic sense of energy well.