Faultless Female Cast
Last October, I saw ‘Top Girls’ at Trafalgar Studios directed by the Max Stafford-Clark. Despite the big name, I wasn’t impressed. The powerful message was dampened by cheap laughs. One year later, the Mercury Theatre has produced ‘Top Girls’ directed by Gari Jones. 30 years on, it seems the feminists play still resonances today. What Jones has done that Max Stafford-Clark hadn’t was make it blindingly apparent to its audience.
The first act of Caryl Churchill’s play is iconic and highly respected by theatre academics, but many audiences can find it alienating. Characters are talking over each other and the whole scene descends into chaos as Marlene’s heroic invited guests crumble before her very eyes. Jones and the talented cast bring to light those scarifies made by these women to be perceived as successful. The end of the first act continues beyond the script to demonstrate the weaknesses and troubles of these women in identifiable way. This is what I respected about this production; it views the script as sacred, as it should be, but added, developed and highlighted key points to bring it to a modern day audience.
It’s always a shame when people leave in the interval, I have disliked many productions but I would never leave. Acts are simply segments of a whole play; there are no rules to state they must be linear, in the same location or, like other Churchill’s plays, the characters to be played by the same actors. The second act of ‘Top Girls’ still holds women’s place in society at the heart of the action, but it bring this theme to a more common setting, a home and an office. Two spaces, it appears, that cannot be dominated by the same women, and they must face the difficult situation of picking one or the other.
2012 has had much in common with the 1980, a Royal Wedding, a recession, and Conservative party in power. Although the fashion and hair styles have matured, society hasn’t and women’s role in society has hardly changed. Jones reminds us of this with clips of statistics and women’s views over scene changes. Rather than resurrect the original 1982 play, Jones and his superb all-female cast have brought these issues into 2012 and kept it entertaining.