Set against the backdrop of Dartmoor in late Anglo-Saxon times, MED Theatre’s new community play In the Shadow of the Vikings tells an enthralling story of lust, lies and betrayal, murder, invasion and ethnic cleansing.
Following the story of Aelfthryth, daughter of the Earl of Devon, who was born at Lydford – the only Dartmoor girl to become Queen of England – the play charts the treacherous and deadly high politics of the time from the point of view of the house of Devon.
It is also considered a golden age, in which Aelfthryth and her second husband Edgar, King of the Anglo-Saxons – who had murdered Aelfthryth’s first husband, the deceitful Etholwold – favoured the monasteries at the expense of the nobles, and encouraged monastic learning, agriculture and crafts, making the country rich.
Dartmoor was used as summer pasture where girls took their cattle up from the manors of surrounding Devon to make butter. But this peaceful activity is contrasted with the grim reality of living under the threat of marauding Danish war bands attracted by the county’s wealth.
On Edgar’s death, Edward, Edgar’s son by his first wife, succeeded to the throne. But Aelfthryth believed that Aethelred, her son by Edgar, was the rightful heir, and murdered Edward. Thus Aethelred – the so-called Unready, but more accurately the Badly-advised – came to the throne of a deeply divided country, full of dark rumours and embittered nobles.
Guided at first by his mother, but later under his own steam, Aethelred decided to meet the threat of Danish raids by playing a game of divide and rule. He paid some of the Danes to settle, such as Pallig Tokesen, on condition that they helped him fight hostile raiders.
When Pallig turned out to be in league with the Danish raiders who sacked Tavistock Abbey in 997, and later destroyed Kingsteignton, Pinhoe, Clyst and Exmouth around the turn of the century, the pressure on Aethelred to do something about the Danes became intolerable.
After the death of his mother Aethelred reluctantly gave in to the advice of his counsellors to take action against the many Danes living side by side with Saxons in village after village across southern England.
On November 13, 1002, the King ordered the killing of all Danes living in England – an act of ethnic cleansing that must rank as the grimmest crime in English history. The irony was that it was ordered, albeit reluctantly, by one of history’s greatest advocates of integration, following in the footsteps (in every sense) of his Dartmoor mother.
Friday, March 15, 7.30, Manaton Parish Hall [Preview]
Saturday, March 16, 7.30pm, Manaton Parish Hall
Wednesday, March 20, 7.30pm, Mary Tavy Village Hall
Thursday, March 21, 7.30pm, Lustleigh Village Hall
Friday, March 22, 7.30pm, Moretonhampstead Parish Hall
Saturday, March 23, 7.30pm, Moretonhampstead Parish Hall
Tickets: Adults £8, Children £4, Concessions £7
[Preview: Adults £7, Children £3.50, Concessions, £6]
To book call 01647 441356 or email email@example.com