The Ballad of Maria Marten - UK Tour Review

The Ballad of Maria Marten - UK Tour Review


Posted 2022-02-24 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Tue 22 Feb 2022 - Sat 02 Apr 2022

Of late, there has been a welcome rise in feminist work that retells history through the eyes of a woman. Popular musical Six, giving voice to Henry VIII's wives, is just one example.

In that vein is this fascinating retelling of a real-life murder mystery - The Ballad of Maria Marten . I caught it at Malvern Theatres, where it was performed for just two nights from February 22 - but it continues touring nationally until April including a live stream that can be watched at home(see dates below).

Beth Flintoff's well thought out drama, based on The Red Barn Murder, has a small female-only cast playing all the roles, even the men, in this fast-paced thriller. Maria the murdered woman is at the centre of the play, which opens with her dead body explaining her plight but not who did it to her.

From there, the plot goes back in time and while the first act charts her life and what led up to that moment, the second act is much harder viewing as Maria's relationship with the killer becomes clear.

There's tough themes handled sensitively, particularly the second act around a relationship with coercive behaviour and domestic abuse. But more than that, the production is an exploration of love, friendship, class and patriarchal power.

It may be set in 1827, but the plot of physical and mental abuse along with women being subjected to murderous violence are unfortunately something that hasn't changed.

Writer Flintoff, who has been longlisted for the
Bruntwood Prize and the winner of a 2021 MGCfutures Bursary for theatre-makers of the future, gives emotional depth to all the characters.

Focusing on Maria's life and perspective, rather than her death, it humanises the victim that is often lost in a murder case and importantly, there's no violence on stage. Although it still manages to be harrowing.

Director Hal Chambers uses folk-like songs and sound effects made by the actors on stage to immerse the audience into the story. A shake of seeds or crackle of fire are clever tools for the senses.

Ultimately, the cast is the essence of making this production the success it is. Elizabeth Crarer makes Maria fascinating and talks directly to the audience, giving this sad story more impact. Playing several roles excellently are Hanora Kamen, Jessica Dives, Sarah Goddard, Bethan Nash and Susie Barrett.

Flintoff has said she was inspired by working with survivors of psychological abuse and she wanted to "showcase the power and joy that can be found in female camaraderie" in this intriguing play produced by Eastern Angles and Matthew Linley Creative Projects. "Eleven women died at the hands of their partners during the first three weeks of lockdown," explained Flintoff." It's never been more important for us to consider and celebrate the lives of those that society does not manage to protect."

The Ballad of Maria Marten is one of those special productions that haunts you, not because it's scary or sad but because it's provocative and spellbinding. It opens your mind to the reasons behind violence against women but also the strength in female friendships. It's a powerful timeless tale, beautifully told.
Rating : & #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9734 ;

Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes including an interval
Tour dates:
25th – 26th February Ustinov Studio
1 Sawclose, Bath BA1 1ET
Info and tickets
1st – 2nd March Marina Theatre
Marina, Lowestoft NR32 1HH
Info and tickets
4th – 5th March The Haymarket
Wote Street, Basingstoke RG21 7NW
Info and tickets
8th – 12th March Exeter Northcott Theatre
Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4QB
Info and tickets
17th – 19th March New Wolsey Theatre
Civic Drive, Ipswich IP1 2AS
Info and tickets
19th March New Wolsey Theatre – livestream
Info and tickets
22nd – 26th March Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Fairbottom Street, Oldham OL1 3SW
Info and tickets
29th March – 2nd April Theatre by the Lake
Lakeside, Lake Road, Keswick CA12 5DJ
Info and tickets

#theatre -reviews
!date 22/02/2022 -- 02/04/2022
70620 - 2023-01-26 01:48:12


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