Everyman & Playhouse
WATCH: Meet the cast of ‘Top Girls’ which comes to the stage at the Everyman in March
1 year ago
It was hailed as one of the Top 10 British plays of the 20th Century and, more than 40 years after it first premiered, Top Girls has lost none of its bite.
If anything, the production about the true cost of success for a woman of colour making it in a man’s world and its resonance with the realities faced today make it even more powerful…
And the decision to re-set part of it in Liverpool 8 for the version we’ll see at the city’s Everyman Theatre from March 3 is a stroke of genius.
“It just fits really well,” says assistant director Millie Foy. “The play shifts across two years, the summer of 1981 and summer 1982, and it’s examining the transformation that’s happening within Marlene’s life.
“It’s interesting that that’s a really transformative period of the community in L8 as well with the uprisings, and it just feels like a crucible of ‘80s tension in terms of the aspirations of Thatcherite policy and the lived reality in places like Liverpool, which were struck off, and not considered as part of this transformation that Britain was expected to undergo.
“It was such a pivotal point and it’s a pertinent moment to reflect on in 2023, when again it feels things are volatile and unstable, and there’s a choice that needs to be made about what we’re all going to do next as a society and whether we are going to be divided like the two sisters in the play, or find common ground to imagine a socialist future, a hopeful future. It’s a socialist play for a socialist city and I think people will find it satisfying to engage with this masterpiece.”
Marlene (Tala Gouveia from McDonald & Dodds) is a working-class woman who’s been promoted to managing director of Top Girls Employment Agency in the glitzy and glam 1980s’ London.
Millie explains: “We look at that through three different worlds. We have her celebrating with historical, mythical women; then we see her in the office and what she looks like there, and then we rewind. She goes back home and we see her in that environment with her sister Joyce (Bad Girls’ Alicya Eyo).
“It’s looking at this woman ascending through the ranks and beyond the men around her, and thinking of what that takes; what rules do you have to stick to and what rules do you have to break to exceed all expectations of what you can do with your life.”
And she adds: “Again, it really speaks to this moment in the ‘20s. When we were casting, Liz Truss was prime minister who the director, Suba, described as a pound-shop Thatcher, which is true. Suddenly we’re talking about cutting taxes again, about conservative policies which reflect what Thatcher was about, and this period of austerity which has impacted certain groups in our community. It feels like something very similar is happening now as it was then.
“The arguments the family has could be a family arguing about Brexit or going Tory in a historically Red community. It’s this allure that these conservative policies have on our imagination, and some of the socialist ideas are petering out or losing the voices that have support or uplift them.”
Millie says: “It’s dense and complex and fascinating, and the kind of show that you come out from, and you need to sit and talk about afterwards in the bar. It shakes up your imagination and curiosity.
“But it’s really funny too, and I can promise a great night of entertainment which might help us find a great way of connecting and understanding each other, finding common ground and an empathy that can make us all slightly better people.”