The Sydney Theatre Company’s current production at the Opera House is a revival of one of British playwright Caryl Churchill’s finest plays, TOP GIRLS (1982).
Set in England in the 1980s, at the height of the Thatcher era, it charts the story,of a successful career woman, Marlene – the personal sacrifices she had to make, the conflicts she has had to face, the way much of her character has been formed by the path that she has taken. By the play’s end, we are left to ponder how happy Marlene is with the choices she has made.
This latest ‘retelling’ is a compelling one with the cast diving deeply into the work. Helen Thomson was always going to be memorable in the role of Marlene, with a measured performance, tough and steely yet remaining attuned and sensitive to what is happening around her.
Contessa Treffone showed a warmth and vulnerability as her anxious teenage daughter Angie, and Kate Box was Marlene’s pragmatic, down to earth sister, Joyce.
The leads are given good support by a fine ensemble cast including Paula Arundell, Michelle Lim Davidson, Claire Lovering and Heather Mitchell, who each got their chance to shine in multiple roles.
Imara Savage’s production serves Churchill’s play well. Savage’s focused, fluid direction holds the audience from the play’s famous opening scene, set in an upmarket restaurant, where Marlene encounters and talks to eccentric, powerful women from the past about the challenges of being feisty, independent women in their particular generation, to Act 2 where the scenes are played out within Marlene’s workplace and Joyce’s home.
Savage’s creative team make strong contributions. There are a number of dramatic scene changes during the course of the play and with each of them David Fleischer’s stark set design together with Damien Cooper’s incisive lighting make a strong impact. The clinical, sterile, hyper-modern look to Marlene’s office was very effective as was the haunting feel to the.childhood scene featuring Angie and Kit playing in Angie’s backyard with her mum calling out to them. Cooper’s lighting in this scene was particularly effective.
The wonderful, eclectic opening scene where, to celebrate her promotion, Marlene has a dinner party with powerful, eccentric women from history, was a costume designer’s dream and Renee Mulder lives the dream with some exquisite costumes. Max Lyndvert’s contemporary, edgy soundscape worked well.
Recommended, Imara Savage’s revival of Caryl Churchill’s TOP GIRLS for the Sydney Theatre Company opened at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House on Friday 16th February and is playing until the 24th March.