Based on one of the most notorious murders in English history, the killing of Maria Marten in the famous Red Barn, for which her lover, William Corder, was eventually executed, this play takes place in the haunted barn itself, which enfolds all the other locations in the story, as Maria, Will, her Molecatcher father, and her Young Stepmother reveal the story in fragments, moving back and forth in time, that gradually form a clearer picture of the puzzle of what happened, why it happened, and what the consequences were.
Maria, still young, has had three illegitimate children by three different men, all of the children now dead, and longs to escape from her life in the village. Will Corder, the son of a local farmer, is only good at stealing pigs and seducing women, and is obsessed with how to cook an egg. They plan to run off together, and Will says she's gone to Ipswich to make tarts, but when her Young Stepmother continues to have terrible dreams about Maria being murdered in the Red Barn, her Molecatcher father goes out one night with a lantern and finds the girl's hand sticking up from the straw.
The ensuing trial engenders much publicity, including lurid fictional retellings of the murder, and plays like this one. Dolls are sold who represent Maria and Will, and model Red Barns for children. It's a publicity bonanza, and part of Will's tanned scalp with an ear attached becomes a precious souvenir. By turns funny, eerie, mysterious and horrifying, Maria's story is a dark and grotesque foreshadowing of the modern marketing and exploitation of tragedy.
Published in Murder In The Red Barn & Other Plays.