The Staffordshire Hoard is perhaps one of the most famous and most important archaeological discoveries of recent years and for history fans, it is a crucial insight into the craftmanship of the Anglo-Saxons, with over 3.500 items, with many believed to have been part of soldier’s uniform and weaponry. The hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009, in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield in Staffordshire. At the time of the hoard’s deposition, most likely in the 7th century, this area would have laid in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
The New Vic’s production of Hoard: Rediscovered revisits some of the pieces created for the New Vic’s 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival, originally developed in conjunction with the support of National Theatre Studio and reimagines them for a digital audience. A 45-minute docu-drama takes us back to 2009 when the hoard was first discovered by a metal detectorist, and the archaeological discoveries and media madness that followed the hoard’s unearthing. Actors play the roles of those who were really involved, from Terry who discovered it, to the archaeologists who had to keep the hoard a secret at first and those who helped to unravel its secrets at various museums.
This first part of Hoard: Rediscovered blurs the lines between play and documentary with real people’s real words spoken by actors who bring the real story to life in a quick paced and interesting ways. Terry, the man who discovered the hoard, questions why he was lucky enough to find it, the archaeologists question the strange secrecy when they are told to suddenly travel to a field in Staffordshire, the everyone begins to wonder how this incredible hoard of treasure came to be there and who buried it. It’s a little like something out of an old adventure story, buried treasure, history and mystery all shrouded in secrecy and the story draws you in.
After the docu-drama, we are then treated to 12 short plays, mostly one-handers, with each taking an element of the hoard and twisting it into a self-contained story, each as unique and interesting as the last. From a Saxon woman gifted a metal seahorse from the sword of her warrior lover, desperately searching for him before she has to move away, a woman trying to throw the perfect Saxon themed party for her history loving daughter, a retelling of the story of Beowulf, a schoolgirl on a trip to see the hoard, or an archaeologist marvelling over the magic of finding some historical artefact hidden in the ground. Each piece takes you on a little adventure, even if some plays are less than five minutes. The actors bring a variety of characters to life and draw you in with their storytelling skills.
Hoard: Rediscovered is an easy watching excellent example of storytelling, bringing the story of something we all may have heard of but perhaps knew little about to life in a new and interesting way. If you are a fan of history, this is sure to be your sort of thing with a in depth look into the discovery of the hoard and stories based around some of its most famous pieces.