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Dramatic ordeal of executed Edith

100 years after the execution of Edith Thompson, Crowded Room premiere a new play Edith built from transcripts of a trial that split the nation

  • In December 1922, 28-year-old Edith Thompson was put on trial for inciting her husband’s murder in what became known as the trial of the century
  •     12 members of the British public would decide if she lived or died
  • Their guilty verdict inspired a petition signed by a million people
  • Edith was written by Harriet Madeley (The Other Tchaikovsky) with input from women prisoners at HMP Styal
  • Directed by Madelaine Moore (Old Vic 12) and starring Ivy Corbin (The Great Gatsby), Peyvand Sadeghian (Bridgerton), Mark Knightley, Harriet Madeley and Rose-Marie Christian
  • Edith will be performed at 7pm at St John’s Church, Gosport, for one night only on March 7

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ONE hundred years ago, on January 9,1923, a 28-year-old woman called Edith Thompson was executed for inciting the murder of her husband in a trial that would divide the country.

Now, in a new play by Harriet Madeley that will premiere at The Lowry next month, the transcripts of that trial have been used to examine this sensational case in close detail. Edith is produced by award-winning verbatim theatre company Crowded Room (The Listening Room).

In December 1922, the jury of this case were told by the judge “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”. But 1920s murder trials were the hit shows of their day. For newspapers they were front-page fodder, and people queued round the block for a ‘ticket’ to the court. Edith quickly became a media hate figure– a symbol of “a modern London without a conscience – and the jury took less than two hours to find her guilty. Commentators have since suggested the guilty verdict was fuelled by prejudice towards childless women, adulterous women, women with younger lovers… and women in general.

Using the transcripts from Edith Thompson’s trial, combined with dramatised scenes, Edith will re- examine this sensational case of one of the last women to be executed in the UK, whose guilty verdict has long been criticised but never overturned. According to her biographer, Laura Thompson, Edith “never stood a chance” in front of a 1922 jury. But 100 years on, will we see her differently?

Edith was written by Harriet Madeley (The Other Tchaikovsky) directed by Madelaine Moore (Old Vic 12) and starring Ivy Corbin, Peyvand Sadeghian, Mark Knightley, Harriet Madeley and Rose-Marie Christian.

Edith is supported by Arts Council England, the John Thaw Foundation and Unity Theatre Trust. The script was developed in collaboration with women at HMP Styal and National Prison Radio, the first national radio station for prisoners. With 74% of people in prison listening to NPR for an average of 10.6 hours a week, the programmes are fast becoming integral to the daily lives of those behind bars.

PICTURED: Edith with her husband and lover