Topping off an incredible, ground-breaking season from the Northumberland Players is The Drowning Girls, premiering May 24 at the Firehall Theatre in Cobourg. Based on the murders of three women by George Joseph Smith circa 1915, the audience will get to know Alice, Bessie and Margaret as they describe their fates from the very bathtubs they were killed in. It’s a unique play ideally suited to the intimate venue of the Firehall, where the close proximity to the actors heightens the emotional experience.

The production is directed by Carol Beauchamp, a multi-talented actor and director with fifteen years of experience working with community theatre groups; she also currently serves as executive director of Rebound Child and Youth Services. A Northumberland County local of four years, it was Carol who brought the script to the attention of the Northumberland Players after seeing it performed in Toronto. “I love plays that are with women and about women,” she says when we asked her what inspired her to bring the production here. “It’s avant-garde, relevant and challenging.”

One of the challenges is that the play requires the actors to perform from bathtubs full of water. Safety was first priority, but second was bringing to life characters that lived in the early twentieth century with as much authenticity as possible. To that end, the production brings three talented actors together on stage: Justine Benteau, playing Alice; Bridget Gillie, who plays Bessie; and Kate Ellis, as Margaret. Kate is a Northumberland Players veteran, having played in Miracle on 34th Street during this past Christmas season. They were attracted to the production because opportunities to be involved in modern, contemporary theatre are rare.

Despite its historical background, The Drowning Girls is brought up-to-date not just by its format but also by its subject matter. “It’s completely relatable,” Bridget commented when discussing how the play—which centres on events that happened over a century ago—translates to a current audience. Themes of domestic abuse, violence and the pressure for people to partner up in order to be seen as valuable in society are common preoccupations of many women, just as they were a hundred years ago.

The play doesn’t dwell solely on the awful consequences these women faced from marrying the wrong man, however. “There’s a fine balance between the light and the dark moments,” Justine explains. There are moments of playfulness, of humour and of mystery, and the actors have to strive to make every moment count, hoping the audience doesn’t miss a word. “Even when we’re playing around, everything we’re saying is important,” Justine hints.

Atmospheric and spectacular, The Drowning Girls is a must-see theatre experience. It’s the kind of play, Kate says, that you have to see “at least three times” to catch all of the nuances. So get on it: Tickets are available now through the Northumberland Players Box Office.

The Drowning Girls is written by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson & Daniela Vlaskalic.

You can purchase tickets here.

The Firehall Theatre
213 Second Street
Cobourg, Ont.
(905) 372-2210