Red Barn's Maria Marten gets to tell her story on UK tour
- Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Suffolk folk legend Maria Marten is getting to tell her story across the UK after the Eastern Angles production is set to embark on a national tour.
The Ballad of Maria Marten, by playwright Beth Flintoff, was developed by Eastern Angles and was first presented in a marquee on Ipswich Waterfront in 2018. This was followed by short tour of Suffolk barns.
The critically acclaimed production retold the story of the murder in Polstead’s infamous Red Barn from Maria Marten’s perspective rather than that of her killer William Corder.
Corder is mentioned but never appears on stage. As we join the action, he has either just left a scene or will be meeting Maria shortly after we leave.
In Beth’s skillful hands we get to know Maria Marten as a person. We are introduced to her family and friends, consequently she ceases to be a victim and instead becomes a person.
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The production was successfully remounted at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, in February 2020 immediately before lockdown.
Now this engaging production is getting another opportunity to introduce Maria to a new audience. Producer Matthew Linley said: “We knew that Maria Marten and the story of the murder in the Red Barn had a high recognition factor in Suffolk but we were unsure how it would travel.
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“It’s a true-life murder that anyone relate to. It takes place in the summer of 1827, in the Red Barn in Polstead, Maria Marten awaits her lover. She is never seen again. A year later her body is found under the floor of the barn in a grain sack, barely identifiable, and the manhunt begins.
“Maria is an engaging character. So, last year in addition to playing the New Wolsey we staged the play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and it went down a storm. People loved Maria and related to her story. Now we want to introduce her to a wider audience.”
He said that The Red Barn Murder (as it became known) had all the hallmarks of a classic true-life crime drama but over the years, the hysteria surrounding the killer William Corder has meant that Maria’s story had been pushed into the background until it was rescued by writer Beth Flintoff.
The Ballad of Maria Marten starts its tour at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on September 16-18, 2021 and will visit the revamped Colchester Mercury on February 8-9, 2022.