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Aldwych Theatre: Previewed 8 January, Opened 9 January 2002, Closed 2 February 2002
Play by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Thea Sharrock.
Caryl Churchill's powerful drama, with piercing wit and intelligence, tackles head-on one of the great dilemmas of the past centiry: what do women really want, and what will they do to get?
Set in the power-dressing, go-getting 1980's - high-flying yuppie Marlene hosts a dinner party for five of history's most prominent women, to celebrate her appointment as MD of the 'Top Girls' recruitment agency. But behind Marlene's fearsome exterior, her personal life bears the scars of her success. Has the material girl met her own match?
Top Girls came joint 16th place in the Royal National Theatre's Survey of the Twentieth-Century 'Most Significant' Plays.
This production comes into the West End following a UK regional tour.
Cast includes Hattie Ladbury, Helen Anderson, Pascale Burgess, Elizabeth Berrington, Joanna Scanlon and Sophie Shaw.
Director Thea Sharrock is the Artistic Director of the Southward Playhouse in London and is currently Associate Director on the hit West End show Art.
"This exhilarating play wears its arguments with passion and yet lightly. It is a model of play-writing in that it never tells, it always shows. It has density and clarity; its meanings surface like air bubbles in a muddy mill pond, and Sharrock aids the process with this sharp, detailed production." The Guardian (from UK tour).
News about the show
On 15 November 2001: Full booking details where announced, and booking opened.
Extracts from the reviews:
"...Thea Sharrock's fervent production, with its versatile cast, suggests that despite the steady march of feminism since Thatcher's day, Top Girls has lost little of its stinging relevance... Since the women often speak over each other in shrill, long streams of self-explaining consciousness, it's hard to hear what's going on. Miss Sharrock should calm down her performers and persuade them to play down too. The second scene, in which Pascale Burgess's pathetic Angie, all gangling energy and slightly retarded, plays with her far younger friend in some Ipswich garden, helps, though, to increase the tantalising sense of mystery. But only when Marlene and her assistant are seen in action at the Top Girls' Employment Agency does the play move into clear focus. The women who come job-seeking are witnesses to unfairness when competing in a world where men are allowed to come first..." The London Evening Standard
"Has it dated? That is the question one inevitably asks about Caryl Churchill's legendary 20-year-old play. Watching Thea Sharrock's fine revival, I'd say in some ways it has. But that only adds a fascinating layer of historical irony to one of the key postwar plays... In short, Churchill's play still hits home and its arguments emerge loud and clear in Sharrock's touring production... The seven performers also do a fine job. Hattie Ladbury starts a touch too Sloaney as Marlene but becomes ever more truthful as she moves towards home territory. Helen Anderson lends her sister the right residual bitterness and there is good support from Sophie Shaw as Patient Griselda and an impatient executive and from Joanna Scanlan as the female Pope and a desperate middle aged jobseeker. Times may have changed but Churchill's play impressively endures." The Guardian
"Since Caryl Churchill's Top Girls was premiered in 1982, we have had been through everything from Blair's Babes to Susan Faludi's Backlash. But it would take uncommon stupidity to suppose that this prescient study of right-wing feminism has dwindled, as a consequence, to the neutered status of a period piece. Thea Sharrock's bitingly lucid and hugely entertaining Oxford Stage Company revival proves it has been no more superannuated by events than Ibsen's A Doll's House... Marlene is a fully rounded, occasionally likeable portrait of the kind of female who is out to advance the cause of one woman (herself) with little consideration for womankind in general. It's a play that very honestly confronts the perks and the privations of this mentality. Sharrock's beautifully acted production makes you feel that "success" is still man-shaped and that Top Girls has the unflagging timeliness of a timeless masterpiece." The Independent
"...Myself, I think Top Girls is Churchill's masterpiece. I would like to add that Thea Sharrock's revival, which is touring Britain, serves the play as it deserves. But the persistent doubling and trebling seldom results in more than one good performance. Why does Elizabeth Berrington, so good when she's parading her smart skills in Marlene's office, make such a drably garrulous Bird. Why does Helen Anderson, excellent as a quietly stricken Joyce, twitter quite so pertly as Lady Nijo? As for Hattie Ladbury's Marlene, she has the arrogance and smugness all right, but not the inner vulnerability. In Churchill's finely observed world, even baddies have souls." The Times