Updated: Jan 23
Developed in collaboration with women at HMP Styal and National Prison Radio, new play Edith examines the sensational case of a 28-year-old woman executed for inciting the murder of her husband.
A century ago this month, Edith Jessie Thompson was executed after a trial that divided the country.
Transcripts of that trial have now been to used to examine the case in close detail by award-winning verbatim theatre company Crowded Room. Edith premieres at The Lowry in Salford from February 1-4, with further performances at Theatr Clwyd in Mold (March 17-18).
Thompson was accused of inciting her husband’s murder. Two months earlier, 20-year-old Frederick Bywaters had stabbed him as he walked home, and the prosecution claimed Edith told him to do it. The evidence? Only her love letters. The guilty verdict inspired a petition signed by a million people.
Ironically for the present day, the trial judge at one point told the jury: “You should not forget that you are in a court of justice, trying a vulgar and common crime: you are not listening to a play from the stalls of a theatre”. A hundred years later, thanks to a team led by writer Harriet Madeley and director Madelaine Moore, audiences can do just that.
Using the transcripts, combined with dramatised scenes, the play re-examines the case of one of the last handful of women to be executed in the UK – a woman whose guilty verdict has long been criticised, but never overturned.
According to biographer Laura Thompson, Edith “never stood a chance” in front of the jury, which took fewer than two hours to find her guilty.
More info and tickets here