Oxford University’s theatre group, Girls On Top, fittingly choose Caryl Churchill’s play Top Girls to take to the Edinburgh Fringe. The theatre company successfully delivered Churchill’s unconventional play that criticises the ever-present patriarchy in society and the Thatcherite feminism of the eighties that continues to prevail in 2008.
Churchill’s play is based around a career driven woman, Marlene, and her development from an individualist and hard-hearted woman into a woman that realises that feminism and strength is not about the individual, but about a collective in which women are empowered by working together.
Churchill addresses the conflicts that women have to face, not only in modern society, but also historically. Churchill uses non-linear methods to introduce a climatic scene in which five historical heroines celebrate Marlene’s promotion. Through their broken dialogues, during the dinner party in act one, the difficulties that woman are constantly faced with and the sacrifices that women have to make daily are portrayed. The audience were able to draw comparisons through the heroines’ gender issues with issues that women continue to face in modern life in this passionate performance.
Girls On Top revived Churchill’s seemly forgotten play with their sharp performance and director Sarah Branthwaite cleverly adapted Churchill’s sparse directions to produce a thought-provoking performance. The thrust stage set up made the audience aware of the differing viewpoints in the small theatre, which nodded to the various viewpoints upon the subject of working women and feminism that Churchill questions.
The acting was superb and Churchill’s infamous overlapping was successfully executed. Each character was given an existence and became fully animated on stage, making the performance poignant and delivering Churchill’s strong message which can sometimes be understated when read.
Girls On Top gave a thrilling performance and awoke a socialistic feminism that seemed to be dying out. It produced hope, as well as thoughts, for the future of women.