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Katie Ryerson in The Drowning Girls. Photo by Andrew Alexander.

Theatre Review: Drowning Girls at GCTC—until 11.11.18

By Bruce Burwell on October 29, 2018

The last time I saw a show where I got warned about getting wet in the first few rows I was at SeaWorld. This time was a bit different though—no orcas were involved. In this play the soggy ghosts of one man’s three drowned brides tell us their grisly stories from inside their ornate Edwardian bathtubs.

The latest offering at the Great Canadian Theatre Company is The Drowning Girls. It’s based on true story of the murders for insurance conducted by George Joseph Smith in the early 20th century. It’s an adaptation of a play first staged in 1999 as a Fringe show and written by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic.

The story tells of the relationships between the charming Mr Smith and his ill-fated wives in more or less chronological order for each character. It appears to be quite historically accurate in it’s telling. It presents the choices each women made in getting involved with Mr. Smith in dramatic fashion. Either take a chance and get married to a charming stranger or face a very uncertain future.

Somehow when it’s a ghost making a joke about their own murder it seems more acceptable.

I was a bit worried that the play’s very original staging and lighting might overshadow the script and the acting for me. But it wasn’t an issue and no one in the first few rows actually got damp. The staging is terrific and features a grey/green set and moodily atmospheric lighting. Over each tub is a shower that periodically showers the ghosts when they get a little too dry.

Left to right, Sarah Finn, Jacqui du Toi, and Katie Ryerson. Photo by Andrew Alexander.

The script contains a lot of rapid fire dialog between the three women which show off the many parallels between their individual stories. There is a fair bit of dark comedy for a murder story but it’s handled well. Somehow when it’s a ghost making a joke about their own murder it seems more acceptable.

The three actors—Sarah Finn, Katie Ryerson and Jacqui du Toit—each did a fine job as an ex-wife. They all convincingly filled in a variety of other roles including landladies, parents, and the evil husband.


Drowning Girls continues at the GCTC until Sunday November 11th. Shows are Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 4 pm and 8:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. There is a weekday matinee on November 7th at 12pm. The show runs about 70 minutes without an intermission.