News: Critically acclaimed production The Ballad of Maria Marten returns on tour

Turning history into her-story, critically acclaimed The Ballad of Maria Marten will return this autumn for a thrilling new tour. The production is a revisionist retelling of a harrowing true crime which sheds light on a complex tale of love, loss, prejudice, and patriarchal power.

It is summer 1827 and in a red barn Maria Marten awaits her lover. One year later, her body is found underneath the flooring in a grain sack, and the manhunt begins. Focussing on Maria’s life rather than her death, this feminist adaptation by Beth Flintoff (co-director, The Incident Room, New Diorama; writer, The Rivals, The Watermill Theatre) brings Maria’s own perspective to the forefront of the infamous ‘Red Barn Murder’.

Bringing together an all-female cast, Elizabeth Crarer (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Theatre Royal Haymarket; Macbeth and Matilda The Empress, Rabble Theatre Company) will return as Maria Marten, alongside Jessica Dives (Pride and Prejudice and Merry Wives of Windsor, Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Macbeth and Hamlet, Young Shakespeare Company) and Susie Barrett (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Vaults; The Gruffalo, West End). Joining them are Sarah Goddard (Hetty Feather, West End, UK and US tour; 2066, Almeida Theatre), Bethan Nash (My Fair Lady, The Mill at Sonning; Jane Austen’s Emma, UK Tour) and Lydia Bakelmun (Babylon Beyond Borders, Bush Theatre; 10, The Vaults). The production is directed by Hal Chambers (Henry V, Barn Theatre; The Bear, Pins & Needles/Polka Theatre).

Writer Beth Flintoff was inspired by her work with survivors of psychological abuse and this timely production highlights the dangers lurking behind closed doors. The Ballad of Maria Marten is a clarion call for an equal and safe society. The story hopes to showcase the power and joy that can be found in female camaraderie.

Beth Flintoff commented: “Eleven women died at the hands of their partners during the first three weeks of lockdown. It’s never been more important for us to consider and celebrate the lives of those that society does not manage to protect. This is an old story, about the infamous murder of a woman, but now the story is told from her point of view. I wanted to focus on who Maria was: who she loved, what she laughed about, and what she does when she’s having fun. I didn’t want her to be a victim anymore, so there is no violence onstage.”

Director Hal Chambers added: “At the beginning of The Ballad of Maria Marten writer Beth Flintoff’s stage direction tells us that Maria’s best friends ‘unmurder’ her and that is exactly what we are trying to do with this production. Nearly 200 years on, we hope to let Maria and her friends finally have a voice – and what emerges, especially post lockdown, is a play for our times. Told in vivid movement, searing music and a swirl of passion, The Ballad of Maria Marten stars a dazzling all-female ensemble.”

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