Last week I went to see a production of Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls”.
It was an excellent production of a gripping play. It is non-linear – in fact the opening scene is a celebratory dinner with Marlene (80s business woman, Joan the Pope (who lived as a man until she gave birth to a baby in the middle of a big parade – they stoned her and the baby), Griselda (the Good Wife from Chaucer), a Victorian female explorer, a Japenese emporor’s mistress/buddhist nun and Dull Gret. They get pissed and sad (as often happens) and tell of their tales – it was funny and incredibly sad at the same time.
What got me though, was by the end of the play how depressed I was. It was written in 1982 – three years after I was born, with many overtones of Thatcher creeping through. What upset me was far little a distance we have come in some respects.
Marlene has just been promoted to the head of a recruitment agency and there is much celebration around this, but it is very unusual at the time. And quite frankly is still a rarity here. We see her and her colleagues interviewing women. One woman in her 40s is told to give up on the hope of a new job because she is too old, and she may have worked hard, but she is just too plain and boring to get any futher.
One woman is told that she must not wear her engagement ring as she will have no chance of getting a job .
That one touched a nerve for me, as I am starting my Masters in a couple of weeks. By the time I come out of that I will be 33 and I am married. I have thought on several occasions that I wonder if I should not wear my rings to any interviews. Let’s face it, most employers will be thinking that I will want to leave soon and have a baby – so why should they employ me?
There were many other feminist issues throughout this play, and a nice exploration of female relationships and the sacrifices we make.
I do recommend that if you ever get the chance you should go and see the play.