The subject of prurient gossip and grim speculation, the notorious ‘Red Barn Murder’ of 1827 has entered the annals of British folklore.
A young woman, Maria Marten, goes to a barn in Suffolk to meet her lover, with plans to elope. A year later her body is found, hidden under the floor. What was the truth behind her murder? Why was she killed? And who was responsible?
Rather than a literal retelling of this historic ‘true crime’, Beth Flintoff’s play is a thrilling feminist reappraisal that focuses on Maria’s life, and celebrates the solidarity of female friendship through story-telling, dance and laughter.
Her fate is explored through the eyes of Maria and the women who loved her, shedding light on a complex story of love, loss, prejudice and patriarchal power.
Artistic Director Louise Fischer, leads the team that includes set designer Tom Bannerman, lighting designer Michael Schell, costume designer Deborah Mulhall, assistant director Ali Davies, dialect coach Benjamin Purser and intimacy director Shondelle Pratt.
The all-female cast, playing both female and male characters, comprises Naomi Belet (The Lovely Bones, Breaking the Code) and New Theatre debutantes Olivia Bartha, Kyra Belford-Thomas, Ali Bendell, Rhiannon Jean, Maddie Sherston, Zarah Stibbard and Jane Wallace.
“I am thrilled to direct the Australian premiere of this wonderful play. I was drawn to it because although dealing with a death, it celebrates a life, one that should be honoured and cherished,” said Louise.
“At the heart of The Ballad of Maria Marten is the story of a woman who deserved more on so many levels. It is about the bonds of friendship and the joy of first loves, and how life starts out with so much promise until the world gets in the way.”
It’s also very exciting to be directing an ensemble of actors none of whom I’ve worked with before. Discovering new talent through the audition process is always a buzz,” said Louise.
Beth Flintoff is an English playwright, theatre director, teacher and community theatre maker. She originally trained and worked as an actor, while founding the new writing ensemble Debut Theatre Company, and has worked with Paines Plough, New Diorama, Rabble Theatre Company (where she is an Associate Artist), The Watermill Theatre (where she was Outreach Director), and Eastern Angles.
Flintoff’s works include The True History of Susanna Shakespeare, The Incident Room and Henry I. The Ballad of Maria Marten has had three tours of the UK, most recently in 2022, plus numerous productions around the world.
The Ballad of Maria Marten
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 15 November – 16 December 2023 (preview: 14 November)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: © Christin Lola/Shutterstock