Eastern Angles has revived Peppy Barlow’s 1994 account of the finding of the Sutton Hoo treasure in 1939. As part of its spring tour this engaging piece will be central to the Upstix Pride of Place Festival which Eastern Angles is hosting in Ipswich and Woodbridge from 30 March to 2 April.
On a very simple set, two two-tiered platforms, curved to suggest the outline of the Saxon ship’s hull, four performers recreate the goings-on which led to the greatest archaeological find of its kind being donated to the nation just as war was threatening the coast of East Anglia. Using music of the period (a la Denis Potter) to counterpoint the events and characters, we meet Mrs Edith May Pretty, owner of the farm with the enigmatic mounds, Charles Phillips of the British Museum, Guy Maynard of the Ipswich Museum and the self-taught local archaeologist from Rickingstall, Basil Brown, who was responsible for finding the ship and paid 32/6d a week for his efforts.
Framed by the coroner’s inquest to determine whether the finds were treasure trove or not, the play’s gentle exploration of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, makes for a very entertaining evening.
Lisa Armytage catches movingly the woman at the centre of circumstances. Greg Wagland is excellent as the man of vision suddenly having to come to terms with local problems. Roger Butcher is excellent too as the diplomatic Guy Maynard. At the centre of it all, quietly wielding his trowel and getting on with the job he knew he had to do, Patrick Knox plays Basil Brown with subdued good humour and steely determination.