France Rolland, Julie Tamiko Manning, Laura Condlln, Lucinda Davis, Leni Parker_Top Girls by Andrée Lanthier

Top Girls at The Segal Center
April 27th till May 18th, 2014

Written by Caryl Churchill, Top Girls was first performed in 1982 during Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government’s reign in the UK. Over thirty years after its first performance at The Royal Court Theatre, Top Girls is proving to be a piece that will remain relevant for many years to come. It seems as though ‘feminism’ as a term is continuously redefining itself and is therefore a touchy and controversial subject to this day. In a recent meeting, I heard myself starting to say “I’m not a feminist but…” and my discussion buddy at that time reminded me of the dictionary’s definition of feminism which is as follows: the doctrine that maintains the equality of the sexes; advocacy of women’s rights. So, in truth, I am a feminist, as I know most women are based on that definition. It’s not a dirty word. The fact of the matter is that though much has changed for the better, stigmas do remain and this necessitates the feminist conversation to persist.

But this play is so much more than feminist ideas and comments. Despite the time at which it was written, and the societal statements and questions this play embodies, it is the story of a person and the consequences of her choices in life. We see those who are affected by one person’s actions and beliefs and how deeply those emotions are hid.

So gentlemen, do not shy away. If you are thinking; ‘this is a story about women, with women, for women, what’s in it for me?’ (one of the questions asked in a pre-show talk to which director Micheline Chevrier kindly responded, ‘You’re just not used to it!’) Ask yourself, do women avoid shows with male protagonists performing men’s stories? If we did, Top Girls might be the only show we see all year. (The gentleman later sought Micheline out after the performance only to say how much he had loved it.) Right?

In Cate Blanchett’s wise Oscar win words:

‘Those of us in the industry still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money.’

I thought Top Girls at The Segal Centre was a theatrical rock show. Though it remains beautifully faithful to Churchill’s wonderful text, this interpretation is fantastic. What I say to those who have seen it before and disliked it, give this production a shot. Churchill’s piece is extremely complicated to perform and is often hit or miss. This one’s hit.

The acting is solid and tight, the set, costumes, light design are stunning, and the music will have you bobbing your head.

What I want to stress from this experience is that this was an all encompassed show. Every element of it was embedded in the bones of its entirety. Though a very text heavy piece, Churchill’s placement of her infamous overlapping dialogue is absolute genius. My co-worker, Joy observed that the real fun of this production is that it gives us the opportunity at times to choose what we want to watch and hear without feeling any shame or frustration about what is being missed.

In the grand scheme of it you are not missing anything, so don’t try to catch every word. YOU CAN’T. The trying can make the experience frustrating, just let it happen. The brilliant precision exercised in this production is a feast for eyes and soul.

All this to say free your mind, sit back, let your head relax on the comfy Segal Center seats and enjoy.

We would love to hear more about what you thought, liked, disliked, and what you experienced watching the show so please do comment.

Did you know…
Caryl Churchill’s family immigrated to Canada after WWII. Churchill spent her teenage years living in Montreal before moving back to England for university.

 

By Cristina Cugliandro