The Ballad Of Maria Marten is a thrilling and poignant retelling of the real-life murder mystery, Suffolk’s infamous Red Barn Murder.
Set in the 1820s, the story focuses on the life of Maria Marten and those who surrounded her. After two failed relationships, she meets her new lover William Corder – and in the summer of 1827, she waits for him in a red barn. A year later her body is found under the floor of the barn. The manhunt begins…
Her story sent shock-waves throughout the country. The Red Barn Murder (as it became known) was national news, and inspired writers and filmmakers down the ages. It’s a gruesome tale that has all the makings of a classic crime drama; though these days it’s often a forgotten tale. Especially of what her life was like before death, which is why Hal Chambers and Beth Flintoff’s chilling retelling unearths her story, bringing it back to vivid, urgent life.
As tragic and age-old as the tale is, something about the piece feels timely and relevant. You know that the world has moved on since the 1800s but at the same time, some of the events could still happen within the modern world. From domestic abuse, class division, unplanned pregnancies and more – many of the issues raised within the play are still important. It also provokes thought about our fascination with the macabre as a society – would we have even known of the story of Maria Marten if not for her tragic ending? It’s most unlikely.
The show is perfectly paced, and uniquely staged. The beautiful ‘in the round’ design, with the occasional direct addressing to the audience and splits between time-frames all aided the piece.
The female-led cast were incredible. Elizabeth Crarer’s journey as Maria Marten is thrilling to watch, you feel every emotion she experiences and wholeheartedly sympathise with her tragic tale, wishing she got the life she deserved. Equally Sarah Goddard’s journey as Ann Marten gives a similar experience. However, all six women share the driving force of the show and keep you on the edge of the seat. I always love seeing what is possible when a little bit of ‘girl power’ is injected into theatre, and this is a perfect example of powerful women, empowering women, in both story and performance.
Overall, it was a brilliant piece of theatre. Witty, emotive, tragic and moving – it has all you would hope for from a murder mystery. Don’t miss your chance to see this play while you can.
The Ballad Of Maria Marten runs at the New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday 22nd February. For more information or tickets visit wolseytheatre.co.uk/the-ballad-of-maria-marten.