The Ballad of Maria Marten: Review


The all-female retelling of the ‘Red Barn Murder’. The story of Maria Marten.

The story of the real-life victim of the ‘Red Barn Murder’ is a fascinating one. By today’s standards, Maria could have lived a long and prosperous life but her life in the 1800s meant that she could not go on to achieve her full potential.

With the popularity of true crime podcasts, television shows, and films soaring in the media in recent years, it is no surprise that I was fascinated to see the New Vic’s retelling of the ‘Red Barn Murder’.

Hal Chambers, Director of The Ballad of Maria Marten, said: “When there is a murder, the public often become fascinated and obsessed with the killer.

“We desperately try to understand what drives a person to commit such a violent act.”

The beauty of The Ballad of Maria Marten, is that it focuses on the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Ballad of Maria Marten – Susanna Jennings image by Tony Bartholomew

A stunning performance by all six of the performers involved, it felt like a large group of actors was on stage at all times. The larger than life performances meant that we felt the stage was full, even when there was only one person.

Elizabeth Crarer’s performance as the late Maria Marten was harrowing and stunning all wrapped into one.

Beth Flintoff, the writer of The Ballad of Maria Marten, said: “There are many accounts of the story, some from the time of the murder and some much more recent – they are all very different. Some are truly horrible about Maria, others make her out to be an angelic village maiden.

“One offered ‘hints to the ladies’ on how to avoid marrying a murderer in the future. Several anxiously urged women not to be so promiscuous, to avoid being murdered themselves. None suggested that men stop murdering. Needless to say, I could not find any contemporary accounts written by a woman.”

Ballad of Maria Marten – Susanna Jennings, Suzanne Ahmet and cast image by Tony Bartholomew

I was in awe of the performance the way they told a story of a woman who was so let down by society in a brilliantly feminist way. At least her legacy will live on in this play.

I would highly recommend going to see this fantastic play, it was an emotional and wonderful performance.

The Ballad of Maria Marten is at the New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme from Wednesday 26 February until Saturday 29 February 2020. For more details call 01782 717962 or visit


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