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  Playwright Beth Flintoff. Image Ian Legge
‘ understand what everyone thinks now (the answer: everyone that knows of it has a different version!).
Then I spent a lot of time in libraries: the University of Sussex Library, the British Library in London and the Bodleian in Oxford.
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, and some offer some pretty bizarre theories about Ann. 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. Then I put all the research aside and tried to think about her as a person. Who does she love, what do they talk about, what does she do when she’s having fun? I didn’t want her to be a victim any more. Maria emerged as intelligent, brave and wryly funny, just like the survivors I had met.
What do you hope people will take away from The Ballad of Maria Marten?
First of all, I hope the audience enjoys themselves! That’s my number one job really. It’s not a laugh-a-minute sort of play but you can still enjoy a story even if it’s full of sadness. But also I hope they enjoy watching these actresses, as I have, working together to tell this story about a woman who has somehow got lost in the retelling of her own murder.
Secondly I hope they feel that the story is still relevant. On average, two women are killed every week by their partner or ex-partner in this country. I feel increasingly that this story is not about the past but the present: how are we going to let women speak for themselves when there is so much history of being ignored? I feel very optimistic for the future - I think things are going to change, and it’s wonderful to be living in that change. But it’s going to take work.
See our Agenda pages 60-61 for more information on this production.
Elizabeth Crarer in scenes from The Ballad of Maria Marten.
Image Tony Bartholomew

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