by Theresa Heskins by Jemma Kennedy.

New Vic Theatre Etruria Road Newcastle-under-Lyme ST5 0JG In rep to 25 July 2015.
7.30pm 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 July Mat 18, 25 July 2.15pm.
Audio-described 25 Jul 2.15pm.
Captioned 16 Jul.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

Dramatic value in buried treasure.
Ever-alert to its locality, Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre has built an ambitious end-of-season programme from the so-named Staffordshire Hoard – the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon objects yet discovered.

In 2009, amateur metal detectors discovered fragmentary remains of Anglo-Saxon gild and silver objects in a field near a motorway around Lichfield. More pieces kept being found, and funds raised to clean, assemble and research the 3,500 or so objects – chief among them being a gold cross.

The New Vic’s documentary exploration of its region dates back almost to its origins in the 1962 Victoria Theatre, where 1965’s The Staffordshire Rebels began the theatre’s dig into its community.

Artistic Director Theresa Heskins has found an aptly incremental way of approaching the disparate Hoard, built around two double-bills in the theatre; there are also two one-woman studio shows, 5-minute pre-show plays at the tables round the bar and special events during the season (listed at www.newvictheatre.org.uk).

Her own documentary piece Unearthed efficiently tells the story of the discovery of the buried objects, their restoration and the fund-raising – in which, as a sign of local loyalty an audience cheer goes-up on learning the Potteries’ museum raised more than the larger institution in Birmingham (as for London, there was no way they were going to get a look-in).

There’s some modern technology, replacing cumbersome old tape-recorders together material, and interviewees’ names circling the stage, but the aim is always to hear what the people say.

After which, in her play The Gift, Jemma Kennedy has the ‘Mary Celeste’ job of considering why all this metalwork came to be buried in the first place. Her play’s early stages can seem like worthy educational TV, with characters saying what the author wants the viewers to know, an impression increased in Gemma Fairlie’s production by the heavy-looking costumes (what every Saxon should wear as winter comes) and the bare wooden setting.

Yet as matters develop towards a plausible explanation, Kennedy integrates major aspects of the society, such as an equal voice for women and the social importance of different religions. Together, fact and fabrication make a fascinating Staffordshire evening.

Unearthed by Theresa Heskins
Jen/Linda/US Presenter: Suzanne Ahmet.
Tony/Simon: Romayne Andrews.
Deb: Jemma Churchill.
Caroline: Crystal Condie.
Jim/Richard/Dave: David Crellin.
Cathy: Elizabeth Elvin.
UK Presenter/Mandy: Paula James.
Barry/Dave H/Steve/Matthew: David Kirkbride.
Phoenix: Gwawr Loader.
Chris/Kevin C: Perry Moore.
Michael/Colin: Adam Morris.
Terry: David Nellist.
Tree: Bryonie Pritchard.
Paul/Rob/Mike: David Semark.
Hector/Pete/Kevin: Johnson Willis.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Lis Evans.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer: James Atherton.
Projections: Illuminos.

The Gift
Freya: Suzanne Ahmet.
Teon: Romayne Andrews.
Wilda: Sarah Curchill.
Lora: Crystal Condie.
Cerdic: David Crellin.
Rowena: Paula James.
Beorn: David Kirkbride.
Cain: Gwawr Loader.
Moira: Bryonie Pritchard.
Alden: David Semark.
Dudda/Priest: Johnson Willis.

Director: Gemma Fairlie.
Designer: Lis Evans.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer/Musical Director: Conrad Nelson.
Vocal coach: Natalie Grady.
Fight directors: Rachel Bown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown of RC-ANNIE.

2015-07-02 17:01:04

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