Jim Myers’ Gallowglass Theatre Company brought their national touring show, Top Girls, back to home at the White Memorial Theatre Clonmel last week. The reaction was lukewarm with the audience enjoying the feminist style jokes and unsure of the context of the presentation. Back in the Eighties the author, Caryl Churchill, was lauded for his historic take on drama with a serious dose of feminism and socialism. People liked her style of plays as mixed sets of themes and the anti-Thatcher element in Top Girls struck a genuine chord back in the Joint Stock / Royal Court heyday.
What was once iconic is now slightly ironic as Thatcher has emerged as a Top Girl but socialist/feminists have trouble with that notion. What has survived is a minor theme of Churchills that feminist ideals have yet to happen in any meaningful way.
The play has a confusing start with Marlene, a contemporary Top Girl, meeting famous women from history for a meal like Pope Joan (the actress Louise Lewis got great mirth out of this part) or a Japanese Emperor’s concubine and other characters who do not justify their existence unless you Googled them beforehand.
This boozy party runs into a contemporary employment agency that doesn’t explain much. Act Two opens with a scene of teenagers playing and that moves into a business setting that only seems to work again the Top Girls theme. The last section has Marlene in an almost kitchen-sink drama in her family home and secrets about her illegitimate daughter emerge.
Time frames are blurred and Jason Byrne’s direction doesn’t enlighten much. Kate Ni Chonaonaigh shone as the confusing Marlene. Liz Fitzgibbon had her moments.