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New Era - Maria Marten

28th November to 6th December 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Rousing Melodrama

New Era Players: Maria Marten, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Friday, November 28 to Saturday, December 6

New Era made an excellent decision to choose Maria Marten or The Red Barn as their Christmas production. Victorian melodrama is not often produced these days, but director Janet Bennett had perfectly caught the genre and the cast played it with relish.

As in pantomime, the audience is encouraged to participate and cheer the hero and boo the villain, which they did with increasing enthusiasm as the evening progressed.

The story has all the stock characters. James Winter as William Corder made a splendid villain. It is a crucial role which he handled with aplomb, using his asides to entice and enrage the audience.

His evil and dastardly plan is to woo Maria Martin, delightfully played by Nicola Oliver, who had a lovely pure singing voice, absolutely in character.

Corder has his 'wicked way with her' and she falls pregnant and produces a child that he deviously plots to poison. He had no intention of truly marrying her.

Her aged parents Peter Hendrickx and Pam Hillier-Brook simply grew in stature as they learnt of their daughter's shame and misfortune in bearing a child out of wedlock. The audience almost begged them not to allow Corder to take her to London, since they realise that his intentions could lead to disaster.

Lisa Harrington was totally convincing as the mysterious gypsy who was seeking revenge on Corder but ends up being killed by him in what I can only describe as a totally melodramatic way. Wonderful stuff!

Tim Bobbin (Mike Moors) is the tall, gangling, simple rustic who does not know how to express his love for Anne (Jackie Fripp), which results in some excruciatingly embarrassing moments all totally in keeping with the melodrama.

There were tongue-in-cheek references to silent movies, with slapstick chases and the scene changes signed by boards, with the most lecherous stagehands that added such fun to the evening's entertainment.

Oliver William's pianoforte accompaniment successfully added the melody into the drama and the set design was totally in keeping with the period with some excellent costumes.

A rousing evening's entertainment that well deserved the enthusiastic applause of the audience.