Unearthing a gift at the New Vic Theatre by David Conlon

In celebration of the Hoard, the New Vic Theatre has launched the Hoard Festival in an attempt to raise awareness and bring to light all that we know of the impressive discovery. In eagerness I booked to see the double-bill performance.

The first of these plays was “Unearthed” by Theresa Heskins of “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “The Borrowers” fame. I was intrigued by this traditional documentary drama that was both curious and unconventional in its delivery.

The play was built upon the actual words of the archaeologists, historians, conservators and experts involved in the unearthing of the Hoard, delivered brilliantly by the actors. I was particularly fascinated to hear from the person who discovered the hoard itself, a very likable man indeed.

The play also explored possible theories and meanings of the hoard, some derived from expert Michael Wood “the hoard may have been an offering to the gods, or the spoils of battle, for example”. Combined with impressive special effects, the play proved to be a tremendously enjoyable and a fascinating experience, steeped in myth and history.Image by Andrew Billington.

The second play of the evening was called “The Gift” by Jemma Kennedy. An epic tale of romance and adventure, set in the ancient kingdom of Mercia (in today’s Staffordshire) the story explored one possible theory of how the hoard came to be buried.

The story follows the fate of one Anglo-Saxon clan. When the warriors return home victorious from battle, they bring with them gold stripped from the weapons of their defeated enemies. This is a gift from the King, who has ordered the clans to build Lichfield Cathedral for the new Christian faith. The women however are greatly opposed to this idea, and are determined to hold onto the world and gods that they know. Yet when the argument turns murderous, each must choose their own fate, risking all that they have for freedom and love. And bound up in all this is the fate of the gold – the hoard.

From the humour, tension, excitement, cunning, sadness to the set of the small wooden hut in the forest, the play proved to be absolutely excellent, a glorious tribute to the magnificent Staffordshire Hoard. It was an amazing story, very cleverly written, with a good mix of laughter and tension.

My favourite scene was where a Welsh slave girl sat by the fire at night and sang a song of yore in her native tongue. The melody and the ancient language gave me goose-bumps.

It all made me yearn to sit too by the fire and sing along with all and sundry long into the night.