“The themes of this play, which include women in the workplace, motherhood, class and feminism, are still relevant”
Following last week’s International Women’s Day, Groombridge Amateur Dramatic Society presents ’80s feminist cultural classic Top Girls this week. Eileen Leahy chats with the assistant manager Douglas Phillips about this emblematic play of the theatre…
This year marks the 65th year of the Groombridge Amateur Dramatic Society – or GADS as it is more commonly known among its members.
To celebrate such a milestone anniversary, the Amateur Dramatic Society presents Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls from Wednesday March 16 to Saturday March 19 at 7:45 p.m. at Groombridge Village Hall.
The famous play, which examines the issue of feminism through its central character, career woman Marlene, premiered at the Royal Court Theater in London in 1982. It was also one of the first plays in the era to tackle the impact of Thatcherism.
The opening scene is the best-known part of the play: Marlene hosts a dinner party for a group of famous women from history, all of whom had to give up a vital part of themselves along the way.
Guests include Pope Joan, who reigned in the Middle Ages and disguised herself as a man; explorer Isabella Bird; Flemish folk figure Dull Gret; the Japanese courtesan Lady Nijo; and Patient Griselda, wife of Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale.
Set in the early Thatcher years, Top Girls follows ambitious businesswoman Marlene in the aftermath of her promotion at work. In addition to the aforementioned fantasy dinner, we also see how Marlene’s life unfolds in her new leadership role and how her new promotion affects her working-class sister.
“We are particularly excited to set up this production for several reasons,” said Douglas Phillips, Deputy Director of GADS.
“Beyond the play’s themes of working women, motherhood, class, individualism and feminism being as relevant today as they were when the play was written in 1982, we have a personal connection to the play Our lead actress, Jo Donelan, was followed in her work as a recruiter by the cast of the National Theater when they put on the play in 2019.
“With part of the play taking place at a recruiting agency, Jo and company were asked to bring inspiration and authenticity to the cast – she lived the characters’ lives.”
Douglas adds that the company is very pleased to celebrate the directorial debut of Molly Byford, a recent liberal arts graduate and longtime member of GADS.
“Molly undertook the delicate task of directing such a thematically complex and technically challenging play. With a cast of 12 women, ranging from teenagers to retirees, she created the opportunity not only for women in our society to hone their acting skills, but also to discuss the larger issues addressed in the play. While the number of female playwrights is increasing, there is still a great disparity between professional and amateur theatre,” says Douglas.
Throughout Top Girls, Marlene considers her own class issues, family relationships, and the sacrifices she had to make to become a “top girl.”
“The play’s narrative and themes are simple – until Churchill masterfully rearranges the play’s timeline to highlight the intersections between sacrifice, selfishness and personal achievement, deepening the play’s heart” , continues Douglas.
“Written in 1982, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls has become a classic of contemporary British theater and remains relevant to this day.”
Tickets cost £10 (£7 for concessions) and are available from:
And Groombridge Post Office