Top Girls

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London in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher is PM and Marlene (Anita Hegh) has just received a long awaited promotion. Celebrating with a few well deserved drinks, Marlene’s office transforms into a banquet table populated by a colourful collection of historical female figures, from explorers and warriors to a Pope, who share their stories stories with her.

Skipping throughout time, space and more than a few accents, the MTC”s latest production Top Girls takes a look at the role of women through the ages. British playwright Caryl Churchill’s work is brought to life by a talented all female cast under Jenny Kemp’s direction. From the Fellini-esque banquet to gritty London backyards, the play ambitiously grapples with some big issues and characters.

Top Girls’ first half, set in the banquet hall, is its most engaging. Li-Leng Au is excellent as the geisha from feudal Japan, while Maria Theodoraki is riveting as Pope Joan, the woman who fooled the church and ended up paying a terrible price. My only quibble is that Churchill’s characters often speak over one another creating a crescendo of dialogue this reviewer found hard to follow and ultimately grating.

The second half of the play, where Marlene reconnects with her estranged daughter, feels more clunky. After the bravura performances of the historical ladies, Marlene’s personal story felt somewhat anti-climactic and overlong.

Still, with penetrating, witty dialogue and some fantastical set design, Top Girls is an interesting look at the challenges women continue to face, whether it’s Medieval Rome or the modern board room. Recommended.

Top Girls is now showing at MTC, Sumner Studio until September 29.
For tickets and more info visit mtc.com.au.

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