In July 2009, Terry Herbert, member of a metal detector club, discovered a breath-taking golden treasure: the Hoard of Staffordshire, now in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Hundreds of pieces (Herbert sometimes found 55 pieces per day) belonged to Anglo-Saxon military items – swords, helmets, hilts – that had been buried. Why were they buried there? Were they under attack? Why had no one found them before?
In the online production of Hoard: Rediscovered, the New Vic revives a production from the 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival and finds new ways of telling a story in play-like tradition, but using cameras.
Theresa Heskins writes and directs this piece which seems to be for all ages (if it wasn’t for that one F-bomb!) thanks to its simplicity and positivity. First, we meet the metal detectors, then the members of staff from various museums who became interested in what was happening, as well as some people from the Dark Ages themselves who explain to us why what they like to wear is so colourful. I found this scene very interesting and personal, shining a light on a specific aspect from that era and how people may have behaved. For example, why does one bury treasure? Because one probably has to run, and fast! Why was military gear so colourful? Because there was so little light around already, why wear dark gear as well? Also, it was a sign of power.
What is special about this production is the verbatim speech style. I enjoyed the fact that the actors were using mannerisms and vocal tics from the people involved. It isn’t about the acting, but brings the show back to basics, to the story. This gives the piece additional colours, and moves it into the theatrical realm, differentiating it from a TV or museum documentary. In addition, the final scene with the students makes us reflect on what comes next, what this discovery means for today and the future.
This also feels like a good length for a digital production: around 40 minutes. We get into the story, meet all the protagonists and our imagination and curiosity are awakened. Even though I am in the comfort of my own home – and this is why I can’t wait for us to get back in the theatre! – there’s light outside and small sounds around me, and for this reason I am not fully immersed in what is on my screen.
This being said, Hoard: Rediscovered is a fun and very interesting revisiting of an event that reminds us of whose shoulders we are standing on and the wealth of things we still don’t know.
Review by Sophie Tergeist
Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £15