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Dead Girls Rising | Sheffield Playhouse

Two angry women, who are haunted by the murder of a girl in their hometown, accidentally summon a punk rock band of Greek goddesses. The result? A revolt against the patriarchy with hot violent revenge. Childhood friends Katie (Helen Reuben) and Hannah (Angelina Chudi) are transported by ‘The Furies’ (Izzy Neish, Zoe West and Rebecca Levy) back to moments throughout their lives when they felt the real fear of being a woman in a world where unthinkable violence is so likely to happen to them. Written by Maureen Lennon, composed by Anya Pearson and produced by Silent Uproar, this production showcases true innovation within musical storytelling, and screams its message loudly and unapologetically.


Pearson’s score invigorates an excitable energy from the get-go, with clever satirical lyrics providing well-timed comic relief from the heavy themes explored in the text (Kill All Men does the trick before the interval). The three Goddesses are accompanied by one masked male drummer, who also plays a kidnapped man in the final scene. Aside from him, all other men are portrayed by the female band members using Brechtian style masks and distorted voices, eliciting an unsettling but effective freakiness whenever male violence lingers.


The most poignant pockets of drama happen during the flashback scenes in which we see Katie and Hannah’s journey from ten-year-old girls into adult women. Ten is the age when they have their first perturbing encounter with a letchy older man at the park. A particularly powerful scene is when Katie’s mum discloses her own experiences of assault after denying her pleading daughter the freedom to go to the park at night with friends. Her protective mothering is juxtaposed by that of Hannah’s mum, who urges her to “live your life” despite the fear of men.

Act 1 feels impressive, exciting and tight. Act 2 is fast-paced and enticing, but doesn’t offer as much to the themes already introduced, with some songs repeating earlier points and failing to move the story forward. The action wraps up very quickly in the penultimate scene and there’s a slight sense of dissatisfaction in that no real truth or way forward is discovered.

The characters would also benefit from further development under an intersectional lens. Whilst Hannah challenges Katie in the final scene on being too obsessed with mainstream news stories to notice the lack of women of colour reported on, the writing here feels like an afterthought and ushers Hannah into more of a side character role. With Act 2 focusing on Katie’s story, the radical socialism promised by the punk rock vibe of the show borders rather close to ‘white feminism’. While violence against women is prevalent in all communities of women, the show could live up to its true potential by exploring the female experience outside of Katie’s further.

That said, the whole cast are undeniably star material, with killer vocals and seamless harmonies adding that oh-so-satisfying layer to each musical moment (we’re even treated to a magical saxophone moment by Neish). Lizzy Leech’s set foreshadows the show’s darker corners while staying true to the punky gig theme, with a spiny bare tree trunk woodland paired with a giant colour-changing frame.

Dead Girl Rising is different to any show you’ve seen before and offers an exciting, loud and unique exploration of violence against women. With some catchy songs and stellar performances, the show hammers down a heavy but important narrative that most female audiences will relate to.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review



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