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AUB Productions' 'The Ballad of Maria Marten' – two actors in period costume.

Palace Court Theatre returns to spotlight with tantalising true crime thriller The Ballad of Maria Marten

Photos by Bill Bradshaw, Richard Tarr, Paris Higson


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Bournemouth's historic Palace Court Theatre reclaimed its spotlight in the town's cultural landscape with the launch of its Spring 2024 season featuring AUB Productions’ The Ballad of Maria Marten.

This compelling production – the first fully mounted, public-facing production to grace the Palace Court Theatre in 40 years – is a thought-provoking play by Beth Flintoff, directed by the internationally acclaimed Luke Kernaghan.

It offers a unique perspective on a harrowing true crime from 1827, exploring themes of love, loss, and societal power dynamics.

“I truly believe ‘The Ballad of Maria Marten’ has been my favourite production to work on, as although the play focuses on a true, devastating crime, it celebrates life through love and friendship,” says Abigail Jean, playing the role of Lucy Balham.

“I am grateful to have met and worked with such a brilliant director, Luke Kernaghan, who took on the challenge of telling a female-led story. As an actress, it was so reassuring to see Luke treat the whole process with extreme respect and have this intense passion for the story and getting it right.”

Alongside collaborating with industry professionals, AUB Productions brings together students from several courses, including BA (Hons) Acting, BA (Hons) Costume, BA (Hons) Make-up for Media and Performance, and BA (Hons) Performance Design and Film Costume.

“It was a lot of fun working with all the different departments,” comments BA (Hons) Acting student Christina Paz. “It was so lovely to see everyone coming together and being just so enthusiastic in wanting to create and tell the story.

“Everyone was so hard-working you could tell that there was a real sense of collaboration and togetherness backstage. We were also finding the joys in the nitty-gritty of the work. For example, there was constantly quick changes throughout the play […] we actually found the fun in how quickly we could change five actors all at the same time in the space of I think 15 seconds.”

Abigail is currently working as stage manager for the next AUB Productions show, La Casa Nova, and has also recently written and directed a short film. She hopes to work on more creative projects as a director in future, in addition to acting work.

Meanwhile, Christina is in the process of looking for an agent and hopes to do auditions after returning home following graduation.

Acquired by Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) in 2020, one of Bournemouth’s last surviving 1930s Art Deco theatres is poised for a remarkable revival. Under the University's stewardship, the Palace Court Theatre is being successfully reactivated as a venue for educational and cultural engagement with a teaching space, a 400-seat auditorium, interval bar and rehearsal space.

Professor Paul Gough, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at AUB comments, “Substantial refurbishment has already been undertaken at the theatre and will continue as AUB creates a space in Bournemouth town centre for students and the community to enjoy creativity and connection.

“By using the spaces that have already been refurbished, the venue will be able to host a full programme of educational and cultural events.”

Audiences can soon look forward to La Casa Nova, a comedy masterpiece by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Ken Robertson. This lively production, scheduled to run from 16–18 May, showcases Goldoni’s genius and significant contribution to reforming Italian theatre.

Concluding the season is William Shakespeare's beloved A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Aileen Gonsalves. This enchanting tale of young lovers, fairies, and would-be actors is set to grace the stage from 30 May–1 June, promising a magical experience.

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