Left – Ksenja Logos and Carissa Lee. Cover – Eileen Darley and Ulli Birvé. Photos – Shane Reid
State Theatre Company's revitalisation of Top Girls demonstrates that the play continues to be pertinent despite being 30-years-old. Caryl Churchill's writing remains powerful, and the issues that faced women in the 1970s and 80's, regrettably linger with us. These matters are the centre of attention from the off – during the renowned opening scene -– where five female characters attend a dinner party, in a London restaurant, to celebrate Marlene's promotion (to managing director) of 'Top Girls' recruitment agency.
Marlene's guests include; the 19th century British explorer Isabella Bird (Eileen Darley), 13th century Japanese concubine and Buddhist nun Lady Nijo (Lia Reutens), the legendary female Pope, Joan (Antje Guenther), Flemish folk heroine Dull Gret (Sally Hildyard) and Chaucer's Patient Griselda (Ksenja Logos). As all the women disclose their experiences, it's apparent that they share much in common, one thing in particular that is significant to Marlene (Ulli Birve) herself.
That notorious first act is mesmerisingly disquieting: the characters interrupt and talk over one another with some simultaneous dialogue difficult to digest. Yet, the playwright cleverly exposes her themes when each actress portrays an entirely different character in the second act.
The director, Catherine Fitzgerald, evokes a sense of Thatcher's Britain during the second half of the show. There's plenty of 'Yuppy' power dressing – shoulder pads etc – focus on money, and also 'London Calling' by the Clash played during the scene changes. Fitzgerald has also chosen her players well. Birve is poised as Marlene and she provides much for her colleagues to bounce against. Reutens impressively switches from Lady Nijo to the animated Win. Guenther is marvellous as Pope Joan and terrific as the ungainly teenager Angie. Carissa Lee is capable as the youngster Kit, Sally Hildyard is excellent as both Gret and Louise, and Eileen Darley has great presence as Isabella Bird, Joyce and Mrs Kidd. There isn't anything short of a cracking performance from anyone in the ensemble.
Don't miss this pioneering and memorable depiction of women and authority in the workplace because this play remains as relevant today as it was in 1982.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
by Caryl Churchill
Director Catherine Fitzgerald
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: August 17 – 8 Sept 2012