Dead Girls Rising review – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh ★★★★☆

Photo: Grant Archer

Review by Lakshmi Mizen

Dead Girls Rising, written by Maureen Lennon, is a punk-rock cabaret show about what it takes to live in a violent patriarchy as a young woman. The story follows two young women, Katie (Helen Reuben) and Hannah (Angelina Chudi), as they grow up under the rule of male supremacism. After the disappearance of a young girl from their school, Katie and Hannah become obsessed with tearing down the patriarchy, and with the help of the Greek Goddesses of Vengeance, (also known as The Furies) they unleash their anger for men through comedic punk music intertwined with traumatic experiences and chilling emotions. 

What captivated me was the talent of the Furies, Alecto (Rebecca Levy), Megaera (Zoe West) and Tisiphone (Izzy Neish). Not only were they performing as enticing and powerful goddesses, but also as extremely impressive musicians. Each was terrific at playing the electric guitar, and when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Neish brought on a saxophone and displayed even more brilliance. The musicality of all three of them was masterly, particularly with the multitasking of acting out the storyline whilst not tripping over various wires and performing as several side characters. This integration of the band into a show is something I haven’t come across before, but it worked well for them and added another layer of flair to the angst of the show. The vocal performances were solid, although Levy’s performance shone through for me in this aspect; her ability to hit the high notes was excellent. The group accomplished several tricky harmonies very well, allowing some of the eerie melodies to really shine.

Photo: Grant Archer

The writing of the show was great, packed with quick wit, comedy and profound messages. At times the delivery of jokes was a little off, but most were well received. There were certainly a few good laughs in and amongst the violence, and I especially enjoyed Reuben’s and Chudi’s comedic timing, particularly within their most vulnerable moments. I did think that some of the crowd work would have worked better on a larger audience. This made some jokes towards the crowd slightly awkward, but still funny nonetheless. Each line was delivered with tenacity, which definitely fuelled my own anger, making it refreshing and liberating to watch. The lyrics of the songs were impactful but sometimes were drowned out by the music, which was probably a technical issue, as towards the end of the show this seemed to improve slightly. I must admit it was a bit of a shame that some of the lyrics could not be heard because they were very cleverly written! Lastly, the staging and scenery were simple and effective, proving that sometimes less is indeed more. I liked how they utilised the whole stage with a certain type of dominance, which made it feel all the more inspirational. 

Watching the show as a young woman certainly allowed me to resonate with the message behind it all. The scenes between the mothers and daughters were moving, and I felt that West perfectly captured the feelings of a mother of a coming-of-age daughter, whilst Reuben’s depiction of a teenager craving freedom was equally as accurate. Those scenes reflected what I think almost every mother and daughter goes through at that age; another example of good writing and admirable acting. 

Overall, the performance was commendable, but the musicality and multifaceted talent is what stood out for me. Lennon’s script was delivered with determination and the perfect amount of rage, whilst Anya Pearson’s compositions were remarkable, and enhanced by the talent of the cast performing them. I would recommend any woman with even the slightest hint of rage towards the patriarchy to go and see this cathartic performance. I’d also encourage men to watch it because I think it perfectly sums up what women have to live with every single day, and shines light on things that men don’t have to think about. The vengeance emanated from the stage into the audience, making it almost impossible to leave without feeling enraged by the patriarchy and inspired by the wrath of the Furies.

Dead Girls Rising tours nationally until 11 June 2024