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Top Girls (Modern Plays) (Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Caryl Churchill
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 Dec 2001 Modern Classics
Marlene hosts a dinner party in a London restaurant to celebrate her promotion to managing director of 'Top Girls' employment agency. Her guests are five women from the past: Isabella Bird (1831- 1904) - the adventurous traveller; Lady Nijo (b1258) - the mediaeval courtesan who became a Buddhist nun and travelled on foot through Japan; Dull Gret, who as Dulle Griet in a Bruegel painting, led a crowd of women on a charge through hell; Pope Joan - the transvestite early female pope and last but not least Patient Griselda, an obedient wife out of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. As the evening continues we are involved with the stories of all five women and the impending crisis in Marlene's own life. A classic of contemporary theatre, Churchill's play is seen as a landmark for a new generation of playwrights. It was premiered by the Royal Court in 1982. "Top Girls has a combination of directness and complexity which keeps you both emotionally and intellectually alert. You can smell life, and at the same time feel locked in an argument with an agile and passionate mind." (John Peter, Sunday Times)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen Drama; New edition edition (1 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0413554805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0413554802
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 383,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Top Girls has a combination of directness and complexity which keeps you both emotionally and intellectually alert. You can smell life, and at the same time feel locked in an argument with an agile and passionate mind." The Sunday Times, John Peter

About the Author

Caryl Churchill has written for the stage, television and radio. Her acclaimed body of work also includes Three More Sleepless Nights (1980); Top Girls (1982); Fen (1983); Mouthful of Birds (1986); Serious Money (1989); The Skriker (1984); Blue/Heart (1998) and Far Away in Autumn (2000) which transferred to the West End.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Play 18 Mar 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This offering from feminist playwright Caryl Churchill is an uncompromising critique of the capitalist mode of feminism as advocated by the model of the eighties power women, most obviously personified by Margaret Thatcher.

'Top Girls' deploys an interesting technique whereby characters narratives overlap leading to complicated scenarios wherein meaning is lost in the melee of competing voices. It certainly makes for difficult listening or reading but acts uniquely as a physical representation of the interupted and disjointed histories of the women whose situation it aims to ameliorate.

The play is split into three main sections. The first act witnesses the meeting of various fictional and non-fictional characters from history, literature and art at a dinner party. The party has been organised to celebrate the recent career success of central character Marlene. Marlene works for an agency designed to find jobs for women.

The first section reflects the women's various instances of "success" whilst exposing the commonality of their suffering both at the hands of men and indeed at their hands of their own complicity with the phallocentric societies in which they found themselves.

The next two acts are situated in the present, within a year of each other, and focus on Marlene's character. This present experience acts as an interesting counterpoint to the dinner-time narratives. It becomes abundantly clear that Marlene too, though ostensibly successful, comes with her own baggage and we are asked to quesiton how far indeed women have come, if at all.

'Top Girls' should not be mistaken for a cynical and negative play: far from it.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Top Girls is one of a number of plays written by the brilliant Caryl Churhill. First performed in the Royal Court Theatre, 1982, the play proved a raging success, also entertaining the Americans when Performed in Joseph Papps Public Theatre New York. Top Girls is a play not neccessarily concerned with providing answers but asking questions, mainly about the rather archaic and unfair patriarchal society in which all of the women in this play are living in, or indeed, have lived in. It also deals with certain issues about women and the world of work, and more specifically, the prices that are attatched to personal success and acheivment. Top Girls is a play which delivers the fundamental elements which theatre is based upon, and goes a lot further and deeper than this. It has educational values and an extremely serious aspect to it, but at the same time can be intriguigly entertaining and addictive, so much so that one may feel that they are emotionally dragged into one of the many, sometimes tense, sometimes funny, sometimes shocking conversations between the brilliantly constucted characters.
However, there is an underlying seriousness to the play which Churchill manages to mix well with the half hearted humour evident throughout the play. Her idea of bringing different flavours of women, from past and present, and placing them around a table as she does in act one, is ambitious to say the least. It does, however, work well, with each character highlighting the changing ideas and themes towards women and oppression. Overall Top Girls is a Top read. Characters are constructed well, and the plot has a somewhat eye opening twist. Would suit anyone in the adult bracket (contains explicit language), who have an interest in the role of women in society, throughout history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good as an addition to the play~! 19 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was hoping to buy the play for Top Girls, and clicked on the link for this one as it was the cheaper of the two paperbacks. I didn't notice any information on whether this was the play, notes, or both, so I assumed it would be like books I've got before: the play accompanied by notes.
This is a book of notes to help with revision and analysis of the play. The play is not included.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful 6 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book includes the play, but also has help with interpreting the text, and contextual information as well as other information too.
I used this for my drama class at university and found it very helpful towards my studies
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, provocative and illuminative 14 Feb 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Although I purchased this primarily for the production itself, which would have been impressive and satisfying on a stand-alone basis, what makes this invaluable is the additional material: the interviews with Caryl Churchill, director Max Stafford-Clark, and the actors from the 1982 and 1991 productions, as well as two academics. Their contributions address issues across the board,: the evolution of the text, the adaptation for TV, characterization, theme, direction, questions of style and genre. One example which illustrates this: one of the actors who appeared in both the original 1982 production referred to her notes/diary in which her character was "colder" than in the 1991 production, giving us insight into how actors and director may approach the play - and that they may do so differently at different times. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wow 31 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Absolutely brilliant play, I was blown away by Churchill. This edition is great as the introduction gives amazing analysis of various scenes, characters and themes throughout the play which really helped me with my A2 English Lit coursework. What is odd, is the order in which the Acts come - in some other editions the play is in a different order which I think makes a huge different to the plot
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you're concerned with feminist ideas and/or social...
Though it is also a book you are going to enjoy just for its quality as a piece of literature, it is really interesting and suprising the way Churchill presents different sides of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by HikariNobody
5.0 out of 5 stars A Level Literature Book
I chose a 5/5 rating for Top Girls because I am currently studying the play for my A Level Literature and it is such a good read! Read more
Published 9 months ago by Christine Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars Good.
Bit worn and torn but that was expected, for my alevel studies so it was great. no problems at all.
Published 12 months ago by Evie
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this play! Highly recommended!
Probably one of the best known plays when casting an all women ensemble. Terrific characters and stunning writing. Loved it!
Published 12 months ago by Thea
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Great, book needed for uni studies, good for those who are interested in plays as I needed this for my creative writing part of my English Degree.
Published 17 months ago by Sharfa Sorwar
5.0 out of 5 stars Good reading.
Needed the book for an assignment. Good reading along the way, have enjoyed it.
Will pass on to charity shop shop once read for someone else to enjoy.
Published 19 months ago by Chatley
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
Bought the item for school requirement. It does what it says. Happy. . . . . . . . .
Published 21 months ago by Debbie Brewer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical Story
Intersting plot consisting of famous women who love to dominate the conversation. Had a great historical story running through it, which kept me entertained.
Published 22 months ago by A N EFFAT
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Book!
This book was hugely useful for my University course. It is an intelligent and complex play, making it very interesting to read and learn about.
Published 22 months ago by lennie4
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