The Ballad of Mary Barton

Written by:

Kathleen McCreery

Cast Size:
13

Roles For:

  • Men: 8
  • Women: 5

Genre:

Adaptation
Classical
Musical/Opera

Themes:

Class
Feminism
Poverty
Sex

Length:

120 min.

Year Written:

1988

Synopsis:

An adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic 19th century novel MARY BARTON. John Barton is a poor millworker who becomes involved in illicit trade union activities. His dressmaker daughter Mary is courted by Harry Carson, the son of John’s employer, a wealthy mill owner. Harry is murdered and Jem Wilson, her childhood friend, accused. Mary’s allegiances and mettle are tested. Set in Manchester and Liverpool, part tragedy, part romance, this sympathetic and truthful story of ordinary people in extraordinary times is told with the help of traditional ballads. Commissioned by Avon Touring Theatre Company and toured nationally, the play was subsequently produced by Chester Gateway Theatre and by Nottingham’s Next Stage, both in the UK.

Characters:

Mary Barton – dressmaker’s apprentice
Jem Wilson – foundry worker
Henry Carson – mill owner
John Slater – unemployed weaver
Robert Proctor – strikebreaker
John Barton – a weaver, Mary’s father
Harry Carson – son of Henry
Prosecutor – at the trial
Will Wilson – sailor, Jem’s cousin
Sally Leadbitter – dressmaker
Mrs. Davenport – widow
Jane Wilson – mother of Jem, former millworker
Esther – ‘The Butterfly’, a sex worker, Mary’s aunt

Singers, peddlers, cotton merchant, buyers, beggar, neighbors of the Bartons, Chartists, policemen, judge, striking weavers, travelers.

Please note: the casting for the original production by Avon Touring included people of colour, 2SLGBTQIA+ actors.

Resources:

The play can be accessed by emailing the playwright at kath@kathmc.com or by visiting their website.