Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn
18th May 2017
Castle Hedingham Community Centre
Type of Production
Author: Ann Platten
This was my first visit to a company affiliated to NODA recently, and a very interesting production with this company.
A well known Suffolk mystery and melodrama supposed to have taken place in the early 19th century, and a play which is indeed a chilling tale.
The addition of songs composed and performed by Stuart Moffat on the guitar, and beautifully sung by the cast, were delightful and so in keeping with the feel of the play.
The cast composed of twelve named characters, and the action was in and around a village and a small cottage. A very basic set served well with a painted backcloth depicting the village Polstead where all the action took place.
The leading characters were Maria Marten played by Laura Mayhew, Nancy Marten(her sister) played by Juliet Harpur, and of course the villain of the piece William Corder with Andy Smith in this role.
All carried the characters vey well and as the audience were seated all around the set (almost in the round) the dialogue was clear and well timed.
A brave effort was made by most of the cast at producing a Suffolk accent,which as in real life varied from person to person.
Andy as William Corder was really rather a grand gentleman, and way above the station of the local farmworkers and village folk, and carried his superiority well, as did Nadine Scurr as his mother Mrs Corder.
I found Chris Suckling as Nancy’s sweetheart, played by Seth Robins, a not so simple country bumpkin,and Julia was good foil for his rather amorous attentions.
The character of Jemmy Hogan, played by Ade Byford, was a village youth in love with Maria but his love was unrequited. Jemmy suspected William Corder was up to no good in his pursuit of Maria and set out to prove it.
Laura as the heroine of the story gave a sympathetic edge to her unfortunate position, but was well and truly led astray by the attentions of William Corder to her ultimate death and that also of her baby.
Sarah Herne a Gypsy played by Wanda Sellar had predicted by reading Laura’s hand of her fate, and together with Abigail and Ben,two further gypsies Izzy Bateman & Konrad Purdy, set out to frame Corder, also for the murder of one of their family,another unfortunate girl.
Mary Seagar and Alan Rees as Mr & Mrs Marten (Maria’s parents) were very convincing as lowly folk,shamed by Maria’s doings ,and I enjoyed their performances in these roles.
It was a very different play (with music) and the essence of a humble family so badly treated with Maria’s death was well played.
The ultimate scene of course was the prison cell jusr prior to William Corder’s hanging.
I really enjoyed the production and thought it was well designed and played,
I was made very welcome and introduced to several people including the Director and look forward to the next production which will be a pantomime.