The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver to have been discovered by archaeologists. To those with an interest in British history, the Staffordshire Hoard is a mystery, with many of the recovered items still of uncertain purposes. However, to your average schoolgirl, what’s the point in looking at a load of rusty old metal? Marnie, the central character in April De Angelis’ Rune is a bright but rebellious schoolgirl from Stoke who has no interest in her history classes, but all this changes after an unexpected encounter with one of the Hoard’s relics.
Rune is an exceptionally strong piece of writing. For a 9 minute piece, De Angelis and actor Crystal Conrie build a feisty, believable character with whom the audience can easily connect to. She’s funny, but she doesn’t trust it when her teacher laughs at her jokes. She’s insecure about how others see her, and so wears insulting labels like badges of pride. Within the space of 9 minutes, we get to see this girl’s flaws, her vulnerabilities, all without Marnie actually being aware that her mask doesn’t hide them as well as she thinks. Conrie strikes the perfect balance of sarcastic and sincere as Marnie toys with both her classmates and the audience. Just when we think Marnie is finally dropping her aloof act, she undercuts herself with a sneer or a wisecrack. Despite being a fairly standoffish character, Conroe’s performance makes it difficult not to warm to Marnie nonetheless.
Equally, De Angelis’ writing is witty and well structured. With individual monologues, it’s very easy for writers to forget that the piece is as much about the character’s journey and story as it is about the voice. Although the story of Rune is about a single day-out school trip, De Angelis demonstrates a clearly structured arc for the piece and plays with the audiences expectations throughout. Without wanting to spoil things for any potential viewers, all I’ll say that the final few moments feel like an expertly placed flourish on an already polished piece. Rune is about so much more than a school trip to look at some historical artifacts; it’s about an insecure teenager discovering her gift for storytelling.
As part of a showcase themed around Anglo-Saxon history, there will inevitably be audience members who aren’t sure why they should particularly care about some old relics some guy dug up on a hill. Rune tells us exactly why we should care, and why, even if history is not our forte, if these artefacts can’t teach us about our past, maybe they can teach us something about who we are now.
Rune is streaming online as part of Hoard: Rediscovered. For more information, visit the New Vic Theatre’s website.