This is the true story of Maria Marten, born in Polstead, Suffolk in 1801. There she met William Corder, who murdered her and buried her body in the Red Barn.
There have been many plays written on the subject; indeed at Polstead Fair, held a month before the trial of Corder, two plays were produced based on The Late Murder of Maria Marten. By the end of the year, a number of theatres were presenting melodramas based on the murder. At Weymouth, playgoers were thrilled with a lurid version called The Red Barn or The Gypsy's Curse and, in London, two versions ran simultaneously - Advertisement for Wives and The Red Barn or The Mysterious Murder. Another early playbill includes a version, presented at the theatre in Lincoln, on October 27th, 1830, entitled The Red Barn or The Prophetic Dream a new melodrama in four acts, founded on fact.
The first printed version was performed at the Star Theatre. Swansea in 1842, and was called Maria Martin (sic) or The Murder in the Red Barn. This was quite short and shared the bill with other plays. Another, described as a traditional acting edition. was published in 1928. This was the Queens Theatre, Battersea version edited by Montagu Slater. In 1927, Tod Slaughter presented Maria Marten at the old Elephant Theatre, where it played to packed houses for five months. Other versions have been filmed, broadcast and televised. In addition, there have been a number of novels based on the story - one of which, published over a hundred years ago, has provided some of the material for this new version.
The music and songs have been written for this version but the words of The Ballad of William Corder have been adapted from a contemporary ballad.
Brian J. Burton