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15 November 2012


Top Girls
Mercury Theatre Company
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Thursday 15th November 2012

Caryl Churchill's abstract look at working women in society gets a fresh interpretation by the excellent Mercury Theatre Company, in a production that thought-provokingly challenges as much in theatricality as it does in content.

A wonderful revolving table circles slowly and almost continuously throughout Act 1's dinner party scene, allowing for a sociable space to be created for the various characters to enact their surreal interactions.  This ingenious design distances the audience into a suitably abstract external position, as onlookers rather than intimates.  We see a group of wonderfully characterised women, all of whom exemplify a trait of headstrong defiance, howsoever it was possible to be so within their differing individual societies.   Performances here are excellent, with individual characters skilfully portrayed, and an unusual overlapping style of delivery never detracting from the content of each woman's story.  

As we embark on Act 2 it is clear this is a play of two distinct halves, as our "everywoman" dinner party host Marlene from before the interval takes us into her life as a 1980s modern working woman.  Earlier performers take on entirely new roles as the women in her life, colleagues, family, clients, who exemplify various roles of this modern society.  Never a feminist, Marlene is simply as headstrong as the guests at her dinner party, and as she confronts her sister towards the end of the play we begin to understand her motivations better.  At first chastising her stay-at-home sibling for her lack of ambition, details are gradually revealed that explain the price of Marlene's success in a passionate and accomplished scene.

I was disappointed by the series of obvious projections bombarding us at the end, filling gaps that weren't there due to the excellent acting and intelligent staging of the rest of the play.  A challenging and stimulating evening from this excellent Colchester company.

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