Maria Marten and The Murder in the Red Barn

Author Christopher Denys
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Adapted from traditional versions by Christopher Denys.

An evening of bodice-ripping melodrama and Victorian ballads of virtue seduced, murder concealed, ghosts wailing and evil punished.

Hiss at the villain, adore the heroine, cheer the hero and wonder at the cunning disguises of Hawkshaw the detective.

Always the most popular of the barnstorming Victorian plays, the true (well, nearly true) story of the seduction and murder of village beauty Maria Marten by the evil, philandering Squire William Corder provides the most extravagant and exciting melodrama of them all.

There are romantic gypsies, mysterious dreams and ghosts crying out for vengeance. There are robberies, poisonings, shootings, stabbings, opium dens, Red Indians and arson, before Hawkshaw, the detective of many disguises, brings the villain to the gallows at last.

In 1828, William Corder really did murder Maria Marten in the Red Barn at Polestead, Suffolk, and was hanged for his crime at Bury St. Edmunds. But it was the strolling actors of the day who brought their own characters, talents and imaginations to the tale to make it, quite literally, a ‘barnstorming triumph’.

Interspersed with the tuneful parlour ballads of the Victorian age and rustic knock-about comedy to offset the horror and excitement, The Murder in the Red Barn offers all the thrills and spectacle which have made the Victorian melodrama so universally popular.