The Murder of Maria Marten
Venue : Woodrush High School
Date : February 1979
Genre : Period Play
Balsal Heath was Murder for Maria
Versatility is essential for any company of stage players and members of Wythall Dramatic Society demonstrated that they had this quality in full measure when they staged their 21st anniversary production, “The Murder of Maria Martin in the Red Barn.”
Due to unavoidable circumstances, the show, which was to have taken place at Woodrush High School earlier in the year, had to be cancelled and its presentation at the Moseley and Balsall Heath Institute last week was unfortunately hampered by its surroundings.
A somewhat cramped stage, lack of footlights and inadequate lighting in general made the players’ task a difficult one.
Nevertheless, these tribulations did nothing to detract from the artistes who proved themselves just as competent in Victorian melodrama is in more modern works which they usually undertake.
Written by Brian J. Burton and based an the story Maria Martin and her untimely end, the story strayed somewhat from the truth, by introducing a gipsy woman intent on wreaking vengeance on the villainous William Corder.
Several vocal numbers had also been introduced and whether Maria proclaiming in her song her love for Corder or crooning a lament over her dying child added anything to the plot is a matter for debate. However, the actors acquitted themselves, as always, with great distinction and managed to create from the start a true Victorian atmosphere with assistance of the audience who hissed and booed enthusiastically at appropriate moments.
Undoubtedly the star of, the evening was Gerry Solomon as Corder.
Beryl Linforth, rapidly establishing herself as an able leading lady with the society, also gave an excellent performance. Here again, the author had taken some licence with the script and Maria was portrayed as a sweet an innocent maiden rather woman of experience she was revealed to be at Corder's real-life trial. Linforth handled superbly.
Other noteworthy performances came from Mike Beamish as Tim Robbin, and Val Archer as a gipsy woman.
Estelle Shutkever and Jack Parramore, as Maria's parents also brought understanding and just the right amount of pathos to the story while every member of a large supporting cast gave of his or her best every way.
Costumes were particularly attractive and pianoforte accompaniment was provided by Mrs Margaret Matthews.
P.K.S., Local Newspaper 1979