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The Ballad of Maria Marten

The Ballad of Maria Marten


A thrilling retelling of a real-life murder mystery...

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, and the manhunt begins.

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.

Told through the eyes of Maria and the women who loved her this beautifully staged production brings the power of movement, music and storytelling together for a heart stopping evening of theatrical magic.

‘A theatre lovers' dream’ –

'Rich and transporting' The Stage

‘Flintoff restores dignity to Maria…unexpectedly joyous’ The Guardian

‘It is vital, layered and empowered, a beautiful piece of theatre’ A Younger Theatre

Age Guidance 12+

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The Ballad of Maria Marten ON TOUR

Our review on The Ballad of Maria Marten

The Ballad of Maria Marten - The Lowry, Salford - Thursday 23rd September 2021 by Lizzie Johnston

Our Rating

Think of major, historical murder stories and you instantly think “who’s done it?”. This play changes that. The Ballad of Maria Marten delves into an untold side to a quite a well known murder case and focuses on the life of the victim up until her gruesome death. 

It’s 1828, a year after Maria’s murder, and still nobody has found her buried under the barn. They simply think she’s just disappeared. Why was she murdered? Who did it? Will her body ever be found? This is what I kept referring back to as Maria told us her life story, from child to death.

I went into this play not knowing anything about Maria, her story, or her death, and initially thought this was either a thriller or some sort of crime drama. It was neither of those and turned out to be a moving, poignant play; to which I was pleasantly surprised as I’m not one for anything horror!

Beth Flintoff has rewritten the history books and given the women of the 19th century the ‘girl power’ they deserve. Maria Marten’s story has been told many times before, in TV shows, films, and songs; it was the 19th century’s most popular entertainment, going on to appear in musicals, plays , and even Dickens’ own magazine The Strand. 

It’s refreshing to see a historical story through the eyes of a woman, knowing their lack of value and how society treated them. Beth really got me thinking about all the other women in the 19th century who were victims of murder, domestic abuse, or just unhappy with their lives. The all-female cast emphasised this as their connections and commerardory took the performance to the next level. Even the way they looked at each other, you could tell these friendships were strong, and probably the only true love the girls ever experienced.

There were a few times when they started singing as a way to move the story along and the harmonies were mesmerizing. It was uplifting and joyous, a complete U-turn from the original themes of the story. The voices of the actors were beautiful, pitch perfect even, and blended so nicely together. It was quite literally music to my ears. 

This show is a theatre lover’s dream. The physical theatre, the use of the staging and props, the movement and how it helps the story flow. I could dig so deep into why the set was minimal, what the props represented, and how the actors moved their bodies to signal a change of scene or that the story had moved on. It’s the attention to detail that really made the show stand out as something rather special.

I highly recommend this show. It’s a real treat and a unique experience to feel empowered as a woman from, what kind of is, a murder mystery. Who knew a murder mystery could be so emotional and touching?



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