Top Girls – July 2011

8/10

By: Caryl Churchill

Directed by: Max Stafford-Clark

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Thursday 14th July 2011

We’d seen this play back in the early 90s, and I hadn’t cared for it much. However, we do like to see every production in Chichester’s Festival seasons, so we included this production, but kept our expectations low. As so often happens when we do that, the experience turns out to be much better than we’d hoped, and I saw a lot more in the play than I remember from the earlier production.

The opening scene, the dinner party with several dead and fictional guests, was done virtually in the round, with a table towards the front of the space and the entrance to the restaurant at the back, down some steps. The conversation was just as muddled as before, and although it seemed contrived at times, on the whole I found it pretty realistic. Even though several of the guests had their backs to us, I actually heard and understood much more of this party scene than before, and some of the business was much more fun. Dull Gret, for example, with her back to us, could easily be seen tipping as much food as possible into the basket by her side, which gave her plenty of ammunition for the bread-throwing section.

The shift in tone to the rest of the play didn’t jar, as far as I was concerned, even if it was unusual. The kids’ conversation did go on a bit, but it did convey important information. The change to the employment agency was also good, with desks being brought on very quickly, and bales of hay removed just as fast. The final scene, with the confrontation between the two sisters’ perspectives and the confirmation of Angie’s parentage, was well done, and on the whole I can see why this play is regarded as a classic. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this it again, but it was nice to revisit it and gain a fresh perspective.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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