Top Girls opened at the Erindale Theatre this past Thursday. Melee Hutton’s rendition of the show by Caryl Churchill played with the tensions between working class women and stay-at-home wives in Margaret Thatcher’s United Kingdom.
The story begins in celebration of Marlene (Amanda McPherson) on her promotion at Top Girls Employment Agency in London, England. She throws a celebratory party that is attended by famous women of history: Isabella Bird (Jillian Robinson), Lady Nijo (Lindsay Wu), Dull Gret (Hannah Termaat), Pope Joan (Kat White), and Patient Griselda (Zenia Sethna). The girls interact with one another and compete for the most heart-wrenching life story. They tend to talk over one another, but they also enjoy each other’s company as a room full of strong and empathetic women. This scene is powerful because it gathers women of many eras together so that we can see the evolution of women’s rights, respect the different kinds of strength women have, and honour the trials of women that came before us.
After the abstract celebration party, we focus on the real-world events that happened in Marlene’s life. First, we see a snapshot of Marlene working at the Top Girls Employment Agency and get a sense of the work she does there.
The struggles of the time inform the different struggles that women face when looking for work. The challenges of balancing family and work, wanting to break into the work force young, and watching young men outrank you after years of dedication to a company.
As Marlene and her coworkers Win (Emily Clarke) and Nell (Zenia Sethna) juggle working class women, we visit a new location—scenic Suffolk, England.
This is where Marlene’s sister Joyce (Mackenzie Connelly) and Marlene’s 15-year-old daughter Angie (Jillian Robinson) live. Angie plays with her best friend Kit (Zenia Sethna) and through their chatter, we find that Angie wants to kill her mother and move to London to be with Marlene, who she doesn’t know for sure is her birth mother.
Angie buses to London and barges into Top Girls. She is not the only one, as the wife of Marlene’s co-worker, Mrs. Kidd (Hannah Termaat) storms in demanding that Marlene forfeit her promotion since working under a woman may be too difficult for her husband.
Marlene kindly tells her to piss off.
We flashback to years earlier when Marlene visited Suffolk. The show closes on a scene featuring the two sisters who quarrel over politics, Angie, and Marlene leaving her family behind.
I applaud every actor in the show first and foremost for their accents. The play is set in London and everyone delivered clear, consistent accents that all differed from the generic posh accent and truly represented different classes and regions of England.
Termaat played Dull Gret and Mrs. Kidd brilliantly. Especially with Dull Gret, Termaat stayed in character, and seamlessly transitioned between cracking jokes to delivering her monologue which bursted with intensity. When she switched and played Mrs. Kidd I couldn’t even tell they were the same person—she absorbed each character so well.
Another highlight was Amanda McPherson and Mackenzie Connelly in the final scene. Their sister dynamic was honest and real to the characters. The way they carried their bodies and spoke with each other reflected their rocky past and their love for each other.
Top Girls is showing at Theatre Erindale until March 25.