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Top Girls
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 1999
Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls'is a play about women who have defined their roles in life according to their individual perception of womanhood. As the play opens and we see women from ages past sit around celebrating Marlene's promotion, this anomaly is lost in the dynamism of the conversation. Are these women really successful? Has Marlene really risen to become a 'top girl'? These questions are debated in the following scenes where the reader meets various women who have pursued their profession at the expense of a personal life. Marlene is no exception, as she has given up a daughter to drive across the USA and live in the 'fast lane' while her sister cared for the child. Unlike Marlene, she has given up options in life to take care of her sister's daughter and maintains the family bonds by visiting her aged mother. Marlene, however, is still the favored one by both daughter and mother; has she earned this praise?
This is not only about women and feminism. It is about labour and class, about sacrifice, and most of all, about human imperfections. I enjoyed not just reading the play, but the stimulating debates that arise out of discussions inspired by the text. It is not a traightforward contrast between right and wrong, old and modern, feminine and masculine but it examines the gray areas in between which take into account human fallacies and individual priorities.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2000
I read Top Girls in my dramatic literature class in college. Reading the play can be very helpful if you plan to attend a performance. Characters are constantly interrupting each other mid-sentence and an audience can miss much of the dialouge. The concept for the play is wonderful. It examines women's lives throughout history- from Joan of Arc to women in a temp agency- all sitting down to dinner. The dialogue is exceptional and the each woman's story can fill a play in itself. However, this is definately a play you will want to see acted on stage. It's also a fun play to read/ act out loud with girlfriends because it raises many issues which concern contemporary women.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2000
I read Top Girls in my dramatic literature class in college. Reading the play can be very helpful if you plan to attend a performance. Characters are constantly interrupting each other mid-sentence and an audience can miss much of the dialouge. The concept for the play is wonderful. It examines women's lives throughout history- from Joan of Arc to women in a temp agency- all sitting down to dinner. The dialogue is exceptional and the each woman's story can fill a play in itself. However, this is definately a play you will want to see acted on stage. It's also a fun play to read/ act out loud with girlfriends because it raises many issues which concern contemporary women.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Caryl Churchill, Top Girls (Methuen, 1982)

I almost stopped reading this play altogether at the conclusion of the first scene. I ended up glad I continued on, but really, there would have been so many better ways to handle that first scene. Putting it somewhere else in the play, for example.

Top Girls concerns Marlene, a woman just promoted to the head of her branch office of the Top Girls temp agency. She was promoted over a man, and in celebration, she imagines for herself a lavish dinner party, the guests for which are a number of notable historic women. This is understandable, and having other players in the play playing guests whose personalities are mirrored in their other roles is clever. But, really, the scene takes up an entire quarter of the play's length, and the information you get in the scene that's actually relevant to the plot is summed up in the first sentence of this paragraph. (You don't find out about the second sentence until later.) There's a lot more going on in the play's remaining four scenes, much of which is quite important, but it's shuffled off for this massive dinner party.

Once we get back into the real world, though, things get quite a bit more interesting. Marlene's niece Angie wants to run away from home and come live with Marlene, whom she sees as a great success, while Angie's mother, Joyce, is content to stay in the country eking out an existence and griping about everything possible. Angie's odd friend Kit is always hovering about in the background, being ominous. At Top Girls, life goes on, with the employees gossiping and interviewing potential workers.

The play's final four scenes are very good stuff, with all sorts of insight into their characters and action that flows through the talkiness. And in retrospect, again, the dinner party scene works within this framework, but it would probably have worked better elsewhere in the play (at the end of act one? Between the acts?). Suffer through it, though, and the play will reward you for it. ***
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 1999
Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls'is a play about women who have defined their roles in life according to their individual perception of womanhood. As the play opens and we see women from ages past sit around celebrating Marlene's promotion, this anomaly is lost in the dynamism of the conversation. Are these women really successful? Has Marlene really risen to become a 'top girl'? These questions are debated in the following scenes where the reader meets various women who have pursued their profession at the expense of a personal life. Marlene is no exception, as she has given up a daughter to drive across the USA and live in the 'fast lane' while her sister cared for the child. Unlike Marlene, she has given up options in life to take care of her sister's daughter and maintains the family bonds by visiting her aged mother. Marlene, however, is still the favored one by both daughter and mother; has she earned this praise?
This is not only about women and feminism. It is about labour and class, about sacrifice, and most of all, about human imperfections. I enjoyed not just reading the play, but the stimulating debates that arise out of discussions inspired by the text. It is not a traightforward contrast between right and wrong, old and modern, feminine and masculine but it examines the gray areas in between which take into account human fallacies and individual priorities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2006
Marlene (Amy Brenneman) has just been made Managing Director of the 'Top Girls Employment Agency' in Maggie Thatcher's anything-goes England of the high-flying 1980s. But in pursuing her professional success, Maggie doesn't really have any friends - but she is in possession of a personal past she'd just as soon forget. At a party where famous women from history collects, Maggie discovers that life above the 'glass ceiling' of the business world isn't really all that satisfying. Supported by an outstanding cast that includes Megan Austin Oberle, Kirsten Potter, Samantha Robson, Kate Steele, Concetta Tomei, and Missy Yager, this Caryl Churchill play, "Top Girls", is professionally directed by John Rubinstein and presents the listener with a truly impressive 'theatre of the mind' experience - the kind that is special to the resonating imagination and epitomizes the best of what live theatre has to offer an appreciative audience. Flawless produced and recorded, "Top Girls" is a strongly recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library audiobook and Theatrical Studies collections.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2007
So deep and dense with facts, theory and symbolism that I thought she broke my brain! I have never been more pleased with a play. This was a masterpiece.
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on March 11, 2015
This book should definitely be read as a part of a class, and not as leisure reading. It's work and has a lot to say. So, even if you choose to read it as leisure, you'll be consulting the internet to try to stay on top of the nuances and connections within the story. Act I begins with a dinner party, in which the modern-ish-day protagonist celebrates her recent promotion with a group of historical and fictional women. This is probably best watched, rather than read. The characters interrupt each other, talk over each other, and compete to be heard. Not easy to keep up with on the printed page. Later, we move on to the protagonist's modern-day life and the various ways that womanhood has impacted the women in the story.
The play was initially performed in the UK and, as is custom in published plays that have been performed, a list of characters and the actors who portrayed them is listed at the beginning of the book. Actors portray multiple roles and I have some questions (another reason to read this in a learning environment with a mentor who can help to decipher). Are the groups of characters always played by the same performer? Is there a reason why certain characters are grouped with certain performers? Would this play be directed so that the audience is very aware that a certain actor is portraying a specific group of characters? Or would the groupings be less obvious?
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on February 3, 2010
In addition to the script of Top Girls, the book has information about Caryl Churchill as well as a synopsis and commentary for the play. There are detailed notes on vocabulary and expressions, black and white photos of productions, and questions for further study. All this comes within graphically pleasing front and back covers. I found studying this guide enhanced my enjoyment of the live production.

The synopsis, commentary and notes are both scholarly and accessible.
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on April 17, 2014
I bought this play because my daughter was in the play and I wanted to be familiar with the play before I went to see it. I was afraid it was going to be two hours of man bashing and I wasn't really looking forward to reading it. But, I found it to be an entertaining, sometime humorous, thought provoking play. I would recommend that anyone who is going to go to see a production of "Top Girls" read the script before you do. You'll get a lot more out of it.
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