Paula Arundell and Helen Thomson. Photo: Rene Vaile

Posted by & filed under Arts & Entertainment, Theatre & Performance.

Sydney Theatre Company opens their 2018 season with the Caryl Churchill classic Top Girls. This female driven play was written and set in Thatcher’s Britain in the 80s and was ground-breaking at the time. It’s about women in business and the obstacles they face to advance themselves in a man’s world. It has humour, drama and is incredibly fast paced. Above all, Top Girls is a juicy, intelligent, female romp.

The main character Marlene, played by Helen Thompson, is a business high flier in the recruitment industry. We learn what she’s had to leave behind to become the ‘top girl’.

The plot takes us from her London office to the kitchen of the small regional English town of Suffolk, where her sister, Joyce, looks after the child she chose to abandon following an unwanted pregnancy when she was naïve and only 17.

Marlene has had to shut down her nurturing side, but that comes back to haunt her. Yes, Marlene becomes successful, but at what cost?

Helen Thompson pinpoints the signposts of the 80s as well as some issues that are still very relevant to women today. “There’s some pretty special shoulder pad action going on, big hair and women trying to be men almost. They had to out bloke the bloke. Women still struggle with the compatibility of having children while trying to have a career, there are still not enough women on boards, we are underrepresented in politics,” she said.

But it’s the overlapping of dialogue to make it sound naturalistic that made it of its era, and the political subject matter made it a modern classic.

“Top Girls is one of those plays if you’re at drama school you’ll study it,“ added Thompson. “Caryl Churchill, Shakespeare aside, is still considered one of Britain’s most successful ever playwrights.”

Feb 12-Mar 24. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $81-$108+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

By Mel Somerville