Maria Marten – trapped in music

It’s a funny business being a theatre producer right now. One moment I’m feeling positive and upbeat, the next I’m focusing on the futility of it all. I’m reaching out to colleagues across the industry with words about art and creativity and a new future, whilst they are battling for survival, trying to keep people’s jobs alive and much-loved organisations open. As one wrote to me today ‘we will absorb when we come up for air’ . This is not a happy time. I say all this as I’ve been pulling together a fresh tour for The Ballad of Maria Marten, Eastern Angles and Stephen Joseph Theatre’s critically acclaimed show written by Beth Flintoff which I produced in February 2020. A show we hope – Covid willing – to retour in Autumn 2021. Seeds have to be sown! As I’ve worked I’ve taken the opportunity to revisit a wee spotify play list I made when I originally worked on the show (listen here). Music has this remarkable ability to keep focus going, and energies up – and so it has been today! Listening again to these interpretations reminded me of the post I wrote for the EA blog about how Maria’s history (but not necessarily herstory) has been preserved in song. It remains one of the most popular murder ballads in the English tradition. She first appeared on a broadside ballad as early as 1828 (a year after her murder) published by James Catnach a Berwick on Tweed born printer …

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The Ballad of Maria Marten – national tour 2020, Autumn 2021

In Spring 2020 – together with Eastern Angles and Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round – I successfully toured THE BALLAD OF MARIA MARTEN by Beth Flintoff.  Following that success we are looking to tour the show again in Autumn 2021 – details of that here on the show mini site

Our goal was to develop a high-quality production and to reach as wide an audience as possible, with a particular focus on audiences outside of the East region.

The Spring 2020 tour visited 3 venues , 17 performances playing to audiences in excess of 4,000.  The show played to significant critical acclaim:

**** Flintoff restores dignity to Maria Marten…unexpectedly joyous” The Guardian★★★★
“***** Extraordinary, brilliant and powerful” Charles Hutchinson Press ★★★★★
“A thrilling and poignant retelling” Grapevine Magazine
“It is vital, layered and empowered, a beautiful piece of theatre” ★★★★
“This is a gem of a production” – Yorkshire ON Magazine
Photo (c) Tony Bartholmew

The sizzle

‘It’s been a year since I died and still nobody has found me’

Summer. 1827.  In a Red Barn Maria Marten awaits her lover.  A year later her body is found under the floor of the barn in a grain sack, barely identifiable.

Maria’s story sent shock waves throughout the country.  The Red Barn Murder (as it became known) was national news, inspiring writers and filmmakers down the ages.  The sort of gruesome tale that had all the hallmarks of a classic crime drama – a missing body, a country location, a disreputable squire and a village stuck in its age old traditions.

But in all this hysteria Maria’s own story gets lost.  Until now – Hal Chambers and Beth Flintoff’s spine tingling retelling rediscovers her story, bringing it back to vivid, urgent life.

Picture Credit Tony Bartholmew

Read moreThe Ballad of Maria Marten – national tour 2020, Autumn 2021