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Review - Top Girls: highlights some key feminist issues.

By Lilian Harrington

Production: Top Girls

Playwright: Caryl Churchill

Company: Ad Astra Creativity

Director: Mikayla Hosking

Location: 57 Misterton St. The Valley

Season: July 20- August 12 Bookings:

It was a real pleasure to see so many young people supporting live theatre at Ad Astra - this week. Top Girls is proving a strong draw card! Written in 1982 by award winning British writer Caryl Churchill this is a dark comedy which has an imaginary and historical emphasis.

Influenced by Margaret Thatcher when the the UK, it focuses on Marlene, a tough, soulless, patriarchal, career-driven woman, who is heavily invested in women's success in business. The play examines the roles available to women in society and the workforce in the 80s, and how they can be successful. It deals with issues, such as: sexism, class, wealth disparity, corporate achievement and burnout. It looks at the long term affects for a businesswoman on family, motherhood, and relationships, feminist issues still relevant today; Churchill has been hailed for her portrayal here as the most significant feminist intervention in the patriarchal mode and for her stylistic technique in overlapping dialogue and nonlinear storyline.

The play opens with the famous dream sequence, where Churchill has used her overlapping technique to spell out women’s views and situations; Marlene her lead character, has been given a top job promotion in a London Women’s Employment Agency.

To mark its significance Marlene (Aurelie Rogue), has invited various legendary women from “history” to celebrate with her; some of them are real and some are imaginary characters, from literature, history, religion, and legend, who arrive to share their experiences on love, obedience, children, motherhood and work, in a drunken celebratory feast.

Director, Mikayla Hosking’s strong, talented cast of seven female actors work well together and all take on multiple character roles. Convincing performances are given by Natasha McDonald, in her role as Louise, where she plays Marlene’s sister, a contrast to the business-oriented Marlene; she’s adopted Angie, Marlene’s daughter, and lives some distance from London. Chelsea Doran, as Angie, capture’s the difficulties that an unwanted, disturbed child, with learning difficulties might have.

She’s dropped out of school where she’s been in remedial class for two years. She has one young friend Kit. She has a desire to escape to America or to see Marlene, (who she thinks is her Aunt), but who she hasn’t seen her for six years; Chelsea as Angie, convinced us with her actions and body language; her relationship with Louise is somewhat stormy and she thinks about killing her. Chelsea showed a good contrast between Angie and her earlier historical character Dull Gret. This allowed her an opportunity to show her skills in character creativity and role exploration.

While the simply designed set allowed for effective smooth scene changes complimented by the original background/atmospheric music composed by Sound Designer, Rosie Richardson, the stage action was obscured at times, because of some of the seating arrangements in the auditorium. This meant that some key downstage scenes played at the floor level were very hard to follow; For instance, the downstage scene between the two young girls, Kit (Emmy Moore) and Angie (Chelsea Doran) couldn’t be viewed easily. However, some of the key scenes between Angie and her friend Kit, and later between Marlene and her sister Louise, provided us with strong images and showed a strong intention and belief of the issues being discussed.

Although at times, the language and English accents used were not always easy to follow, especially in the introductory “dream scene” it didn’t detract from the production because it was backed up by clever gestures, actions and an imaginative creative team, e.g. a colourful Costume Design by Xanthe Jones, which helped explain and create strong images and messages, about the characters. This production of Top Girls is interesting, and it holds the audience’s attention, because it highlights some key feminist issues.


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