It's England under Thatcher and career woman, Marleen, has just been promoted to MD of the Top Girls Employment Agency. And she's having a dinner party to celebrate. With some of myth and history's most powerful women. This is how Caryl Churchill's play opens.
Written in 1982, when what it described was modern life, the themes of female power and women in the workplace won't be lost on today's audiences. Because the question of how women can 'have it all' - as in career and family - is one that we'll continue to ask ourselves generation after generation. So it's useful for Marleen to help us by asking her historic comrades about their own experiences of 'doing it'.
When the play premiered at the Royal Court it was directed by Max Stafford-Clark, who's also directing this revival, which itself was premiered at the Chichester Festival. This might be one of the reasons why the play got reviews there as good as the original ones. In London it's on at the Trafalgar Studios, and stars Stella Gonet, Suranne Jones, Catherine McCormack, Lucy Briers, Laura Elphinstone, Lisa Kerr and Olivia Poulet.
Top Girls shines a light on a time when women struck another blow for equality - the 80s. In the era of Chardonnay and shoulder pads, this clever piece highlights the shifting tides and the barriers women who wanted careers faced from traditional views of roles in the work place, in the home and in society in general - supportive and nurturing. Marlene is neither of these and in her stand for equality, bears the brunt of social opinion that makes 'her sort' out to be unfeminine, selfish and 'not a real woman'.
The juxtaposition of her stand versus the women of history presented at the dinner table in the first scene is thought-provoking
and highlights the impact of society in shaping what is expected from us and indeed what we expect from ourselves.
This is a fabulous play and I'd highly recommend it. The London season ends on October 29th (2011) so you've still got time to pop along to Trafalgar Studios and see it.
By Kym Hamer - senior reviewer Monday, 29th of August @ 08:49 am