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14/02/2020 20:52:49  

Stephen Joseph theatre, Scarborough
Beth Flintoff rewrites the narrative of the woman killed in the Red Barn, focusing on her wit and ferocity rather than her notorious death

The history books are rewritten in this luminous, compassionate production about the Red Barn murder in Suffolk. Beth Flintoff tells the story of Maria Marten, who was shot in 1827 in the village of Polstead, and buried for a year before her remains were found. Focusing on her life rather than her death, Flintoff restores dignity to Maria, who became the grim fascination of public gossip after her murder.

With an all-female cast, the play is unexpectedly joyous. We see the struggles of being a poor woman in the early 19th century – lack of money, contraception and societal worth – but where there is dread, grief and violence, there is also joy, laughter and dance. We get the pleasure of seeing Maria be happy. Elizabeth Crarer plays her with open wit and sharp ferocity; she is both easy to love, and quick to love others.

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