May 24

Vertigo Theatre’s ‘The Drowning Girls’ is theatrical in its telling but lacks emotional pull

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

George Joseph Smith was an English serial killer who killed many women by drowning them in a bathtub, but not before they took out life insurance with Smith as the sole beneficiary. Vertigo Theatre’s The Drowning Girls is a play conceived by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic that is based on the real-life serial killer but told mostly from the point of view of the victims. It explores how Smith managed to fleece these women and almost get away with it.

The play introduces the victims, Beatrice Mundy (Jamie Konchak), Alice Burnham (Jamie Tognazzini) and Margaret Lofty (Donna Soares), as white, shadowy ghosts on stage who talk about meeting a man who swept them off their feet.

The victims continue to talk about how society didn’t see them as useful or worthy if they weren’t married. Smith was seen as their saving grace as he was someone who seemed to desire them and could bring new meaning to their lives. Their overlapping stories illustrate the victim mentality and how he was very swift, and successful, in separating them from their families.

Together they piece together a story of how long they were married, how much money he took them for, and when they died.

This story is simply illustrated by three bathtubs on stage, while the women change into their wedding dresses and take refuge in the water, or hide in the water, or drown in water.

The Drowning Girls is a highly visual play with the actresses always in a state of drenched. The actresses fill in every role performing as doctors, investigators, and Smith himself. Peter Moller’s sound design helps to fill in the setting and build the narrative. Scott Reid’s set design has the three bathtubs on stage, with windows in the background, often lit in eery blues and whites. Narda McCarroll’s costume and makeup design works within the production, as the ladies are in and out of bath water, but always looking ghostly.

All three performers are strong, playing a variety of parts. Under the direction of Blake Brooker and Denise Clarke, the story unfolds in layers until we get to the heart of the mystery behind all three murders.

The play is more a clinical take on a serial killer. While the narrative is meant to give the victims a voice and create a connection with them, there isn’t much in terms of an actual connection to these three women who died by drowning. Because these characters are still flat, the play lacks emotional pull. The Drowning Girls finds its inspiration in a true story about a killer and is particularly inventive in its telling of this story. However, the play lacks emotional connection.

Vertigo Theatre’s The Drowning Girls runs until June 11. More information is available at

Photo: From left to right: Donna Soares, Jamie Konchak and Jamie Tognazzini
Credit: Citrus Photography

Related Posts

Previous post:

Next post: