A thrilling retelling of a real-life murder mystery is gripping audiences at the Everyman Theatre. We invited local theatre enthusiast, Danielle Ellis, to check out The Ballad of Maria Marten on behalf of Visit Cheltenham, read her thoughts below. 

Performances are only taking until Thursday 30th September at 7.30pm so you'll need to be quick if you wish to check it out yourself!

A thrilling retelling of a real-life murder mystery is gripping audiences at the Everyman Theatre

In the 1820s a brutal murder fired the public’s interest. The story appeared in a ballad (the equivalent of our tabloids today) and a million copies were sold. This ballad lead to songs, melodramas, and even peep shows, and as you can imagine, fact and fiction blended. But what really happened?

In The Ballad of Maria Marten, Maria Marten herself tells the story. We know ‘who done it’ but not how and why. We meet her battered and bloodied at the start relating the true events. At times she speaks to the audience, at times she’s part of the action.

An accomplished all-woman cast of just 6 tell the story. There are just two male characters in the play, played by members of the cast. Who play 9 characters between them.

Maria is a feisty girl who will do anything to help her family. As a young girl, with her best friends, they are full of joy and fun. However, it is a time of poverty, with few jobs and prospects. The girls gain boyfriends and become pregnant. Life is a struggle. Maria finally gives in to pressure from Thomas Corder ensure her family is fed.

The action is deft, often fast and furious as the actors whirl round the stage transforming the basic barn set into a fair, back into hovel. Visited by the Lady of the Manor, Maria is taken under her wing which leads her to meeting Lady’ Cooke’s brother Peter Matthews. A romance blooms but she is persuaded to let him go.

She falls heavily for William Corder (Thomas’ brother) which leads to her downfall. A nasty, cruel man who we never actually see, manipulates Maria and undermines her confidence. She’s just 25 when she dies. But Corder suggests she’s run off. A year later her body is found. Will the true story come out?

Beth Flintoff has written a compelling play, beautifully crafted. Do we know about the lives of these murdered women or are they defined the crime perpetrated? This is a true murder mystery to savour and watch. The title, I think, doesn’t serve it well. Ignore that, and go and immerse yourself in the story. 

Review by Danielle Ellis. Find Danielle on Instagram and Twitter - @breadbakerdani

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The Ballad of Maria Marten
Event
The Ballad of Maria Marten

Turning history into her-story, critically acclaimed The Ballad of Maria Marten will return this autumn for a thrilling new tour.

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