Year 13 What interests you about Top Girls?

Please post your homework below by next Monday 7th November. The task is on the final slides on the PowerPoint.

Looking forward to reading them!

Feel free to use a pen name (tough bird?) or your own 🙂

Mrs Taylor



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12 Responses to Year 13 What interests you about Top Girls?

  1. Luella says:

    I love Churchill’s criticism of secular feminism; she subtly yet strongly questions the point of progression for the female individual if sisterhood is stuck, or regressed into a graver state of patriarchy as a whole. For Nightingale, Top Girls has “an unusual and arresting point to make: liberation is only a subtler, uglier form of enslavement if women have to maim, mutilate and be-Thatcher themselves in order to achieve it”. Feminism should be a social-political movement available for and benefiting to everyone, a point Joyce raises in her angst against Marlene for her shallow support of Thatcher “What good’s first women if it’s her? I suppose you’d have liked Hitler if he was a woman” and one which second-wave feminism aimed to achieve. Act one which stages a trans-historical tableau in the form of a dinner party, whereby several women united in having their fair share of oppression from across history, demonstrates the futility of such self-absorbed feminism. Churchill’s infamous use of overlapping dialogue at first imitates naturalistic conversation, something which then progresses into a chaotic cacophony which means in their inward infatuation, the women are no longer listening to each other, and are battling to convey the most tragic tale of their experiences “my father came out in tears…” interjected by Nijo “At least your father wasn’t dead. I had nobody”. In this sense, Churchill’s criticism of such self-absorbed motives is contrary to connotations and prepositions from the name of the play ‘Top girls’ anticipating a celebration of feminism and women being brilliant.

  2. Amelia Stone says:

    The element of Top Girls that captivated me the most was the way in which it is a non-didactic and socialist piece of theatre, with the evident method of Brecht internal to the play meaning it is a reflection or response to the current political climate. As Thatcherism was a hedonistic and self-preserving philosophy that dominated business prevalent in the 80’s, whilst also accomplishing the first female PM, there is difficulty in distinguishing whether this had a positive impact on society, and whether Churchill intends to present it in this way.

    There is evidence for the increase in rights for women, particularly as during the agency interview with Jeanine she indicates she feels no obligation to have ‘kids, not yet’, as well as dictating that she ‘might’ want to work permanently despite her marriage. There is clarity within the fact that Marlene is the promoter of Thatcherism, proclaiming that she ‘certainly gets my vote’ and that she ‘believe[s] in the individual’, evidently promoting this almost Darwinian survival of the fittest approach.

    Despite this, the overlapping dialogue and interruption of stories also highlights the fundamental lack of sisterhood or unity present, further emphasised through the erratic non-linear chronology. It is inherently apparent that it was not unanimous within women to support Thatcher, as Joyce questions ‘what goods first woman if it’s her’, likely to be a consequence of her lack of support for the women’s movement, particularly as Thatcher herself proclaimed she would accept no ‘discrimination’ for the furtherance of women in her government. Pope Joan is also illustrative of the absence of equality of opportunity as she reflects that she ‘shouldn’t have been a woman’. Erika Munk argued in 1983 that if you look at ‘women’s history you can’t get what you want in an ordinary, simple, humane way, if you want anything much’, suggesting this was still the case even in the presence of a female PM.

  3. Imi Keable says:

    The female aesthetic is powerfully used in this play to exhibit the struggle women have had to succeed in a “mans world” throughout history. In Act 1, there is a reoccurring theme of women defying their conventional traditions- “we’ve all come a long way”- who gather to celebrate their “extraordinary achievements” and Marlene’s success of becoming “managing director” “over all the women.. and men” she works with. During the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, female equality in various work positions was very abundant however, despite Marlene taking risks and sacrificing her social life and family, “I haven’t time for a holiday”, she is still attacked by Mrs Kidd who creates a fracture within the sisterhood “Are you suggesting I give the job up to him then?”; this demonstrates the isolation and discrimination Marlene receives, as she isn’t supported by the society of women, even though this is a well-deserved achievement. Bimberg saw the ‘working woman’ as taking a step backwards for the feminists as he interpreted the play as encouraging female success by “adopting male modes of behaviour”, this is evident through habits such as Marlene eating “rare” steak which is typically associated with affluence and masculinity; however, this also could be used by Churchill to show how ambitious women were in the 1970s. Churchill uses female historical figures such as Pope Joan to show the potential for women however due to the historic gender restrictions, herself and her baby were “stoned to death” in public which highlights the brutality and barbarity against women in power- “Women, children and lunatics can’t be Pope”- even though Pope Joan was qualified by her extensive education, but she hid her gender and “dressed as a boy” to protect herself which proved that she could achieve success amongst men and excel in her career.

  4. Alice says:

    I have found our study of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls to be insightful; Churchill displays a society where the few thrive at the expense of the many, contrary to many opinions that this was the time when most women began to expand their horizons with a high success rate. This can be seen in the characters of Joyce and Marlene. Marlene abandoned her working her working-class roots in order to succeed, but it is her sister Joyce who bears the burden, shown when she says “Look, you’ve left, you’ve gone away, we can do without you.” The play instead explores women experiencing failure and surviving inside the patriarchy rather than beyond it, attempting to promote equality within the existing system; a type of feminism called bourgeois that is now often ridiculed for not being inclusive. Whilst some, such as Bryan Robertson, have found the overlapping dialogue to be “an irritating conceit”, I found it to be innovatively used, and instead, as Rebecca Cameron says, shows the “sisterhood… doomed to failure”. This failure can be seen when Isabella is talking about the death of her father and Nijo interrupts with “Of course you were grieved. My father was his prayers and he dozed off in the sun.” However, for me, the Churchill’s use of Brechtian elements is what makes this play so interesting. By using a non-linear structure when act three occurs chronologically before act 2, the audience is required to take an active role in the production in order to form links as Brecht believed in audiences having “their eyes on the course and not the finish.” The trans-historical tableau also alienates the audience and by bringing notable women from history to the present, Churchill creates a critical attitude in the audience by allowing them to make connections between a previous historical setting and their own; ultimately suggesting that despite feminist progress, the patriarchy remains ever-oppressive.

  5. Beth says:

    For me, the most interesting part of Top Girls is the lack of solidarity between the women. Although undeniably she shows the progress of female empowerment through the contrast in attitudes of the historical women in Act One with the women in Act Two, Churchill wittily demonstrates that there was still so much that second-wave feminism hadn’t achieved. Marlene’s interview with Jeanine is demonstrative of the condescending and pessimistic attitude that was ingrained into society on response to women aspiring for high-powered jobs – “you haven’t got the speeds anyway”. Whilst Nell’s interview with Shona highlights the lack of movement and sympathy for women in the working class who have not had as much experience in the professional industry. Nell’s response to Shona’s lack of professional understanding “Christ what a waste of time” expresses Churchill’s strong view that there is no point in moving women forward if the working class are going to be forgotten. Churchill shrewdly showcases through the character of Louise that even though women are the victims of gender discrimination, it has also become institutionalised within them “I don’t care greatly for working with women”. It is hopelessly ironic that the women don’t feel the need to empower each other considering the 1980’s saw the first female PM, however this is what makes Churchill interesting as she satirises the view that women have to fall under the perfect bracket of being young, single and childless in order to be successful. Benedict Nightingale rightly said “liberation is only a subtler, uglier form of enslavement if women have to maim, mutilate and be-Thatcher themselves in order to achieve it.”

  6. Lady Love says:

    For me it is Churchill’s use of Brechtian theatre to actively involve the audience to create meaning. By using character doubling, Churchill distances the audience from emotionally connecting with individual characters, encouraging them to think of the wider meaning of the play – the role of women over time.

    The use of parallel between historical characters from Act 1 and modern-day characters from Acts 2 and 3 is particularly effective – especially when doubled. For example, Lady Nijo’s blind obedience to the Emperor that used her (“I belonged to him… I never enjoyed taking other women to him”) is comparable to Win’s false empowerment that she holds over having an affair with a married man (“I had to lie down in the back of the car so the neighbours wouldn’t see me go in… It was funny”). Although these women lived 700 years apart, doubling forces the audience to draw comparisons between them and adopt a critical, alienated stance – a renowned Brechtian technique.

    Churchill herself says that she owes many of her techniques to Brecht, including alienation through doubling – “I’ve soaked up quite a lot about him over the years… without constantly thinking of Brecht we nevertheless imagine things in a way we might not have without him”. Brecht’s influence on Churchill’s theatre is prominent, and it shines through Top Girls by alienating the audience into thinking about the wider questions of the role of women in society, the extent that this has changed over time, and what makes a successful woman.

  7. Stupid, lazy and frightened :) says:

    What interests me most about Top Girls, is the strength of all female characters present. Throughout Act 1 I found myself in utter admiration for the women, despite the constant overlapping dialogue making it difficult not to form the opinion that they are rude. Dull Gret’s initial presence is confusing, but later finding out the brutal way in which her children were killed ‘my baby, a soldier run her through with a sword’, leading to her march into hell for revenge forces me to believe that she is a strong, determined woman. Underneath their boastful facades, are women who have been through things that I can’t even imagine in this modern age; I can’t help but feel inspired by Pope Joan’s courage in pretending to be a man purely to become pope, as it proves that she believed in positive change by any means possible. However, this admiration is quickly derailed as although ‘outstanding lifetime achievements are revealed’ they are ‘often in parallel’ with ‘overlapping speeches’ as Georgina Vasile said in 2010. While some people may think that the overlapping dialogue is genius, I find that it adds very little to the play other than to show us which characters are rude and impatient. Churchill, in my opinion, has been successful in her attempt to raise awareness of ever-changing feminism. Her use of historical and modern characters’ shows us how far women have come in terms of social status, while also highlighting just how far we still need to go for equality.

    Rebecca x

  8. Lydia says:

    Churchill’s promotion of female strength inspires and challenges female members of the audience, showing how women have been treated throughout the ages (In Act 1) regarding their status and duty as women and how their rights have changed.
    This play proves how although eventually achieving women’s rights as a part of daily society, that it is still very difficult to achieve total equality. In the interview scenes of Act 2, the male influenced society is most stressed through Marlene’s direct questions to Jeanine and her implementing quite severely that Jeanine should not mention her desires of marriage and childhood as it would most likely prevent her from getting a job. Whereas neither of these things would affect a man’s career, they would have done so in the 80s, as female rights were only just beginning to obtain the same job titles as men.
    I admire Churchill’s feminist stand in the creation of this play as she captures the way that woman had been treated throughout history, how they were treated when Churchill was writing, and how they would potentially be treated in the future.
    The play shows many struggles of women from all statuses and walks of life, including the matter of lovers and children. Patient Griselda is the perfect example of how greatly effected women were negatively by their husbands, whereas Nell shows in Act 2 how much a woman’s attitude towards a man can have changed as she states having more than one man at a time.
    Churchill’s subtleties and personal elements allow the audience to connect with the play and understand it on a deeper level, and therefore her intentions were a lot more effective.

  9. Georgia says:

    The thing that interested me the most about Top Girls was the element of sisterhood that was almost destroyed by competetition as men were dominating most aspects of society such as employment, wages and rights. Women had to turn on each other to gain what they wanted and put do each other to get what they wanted. However, it could also be seen that the girls were working together in getting each other to succeed in giving jobs ect but there was always an element of back turning and secretily wishing that fellow females weren’t going to do as well as you.
    I also found the use over overlapping dialogue clever because it shows a natural way of speech and although this can be seen as negative I think it shows the pressures the women faced to get their point across.

  10. Lady Nijo says:

    The horror of Top Girls is not how much has changed but how little. Despite the time span between the play (80s) to modern day 2016, there is still significant inequality between both genders in employment in the western world and and the life of girls in globally. For example, women are still not progressing in gaining high positions in religious society like Pope Joan: “They took me by the feet and dragged me out of town.” Men are still critical of his and the majority of key positions are claimed by men. What I found fascinating is that all these some in the play and from different periods of history nevertheless, they all suffered in their ordinary life due to their biology. Churchill portrays all these women as survivors of their own struggle including Marlene, a woman later in the period. Marlene had to sacrifice her daughter and family in order to maintain a high ranking job, Joyce: “I don’t know how you could leave your own child.” If she were to keep her child she would most likely not be able to claim this job. This is similar to modern day as well as women working currently who might want to have children and make a family, are pressured to throw away they idea similar to Janine’s interview with Marlene: “you won’t want to mention marriage there.” Finally, it’s interesting to realise that although the woman in the play have fought to break the social norms of women, as readers we would expect each woman to empower each other and congratulate one another.. nonetheless, all I have witnessed are the women feeling as if they are in competition (Act 1) Nijo “Oh dear, Joan, what a thing to do! In the street!, Isabella: *How embarrassing; contradicting the name ‘Top Girls’.

  11. Michaela says:

    What interested me most about Top Girls is that despite Marlene and Joyce being sisters, they represent polarised positions of politics. Marlene supports capitalism under Thatcher’s government whereas Joyce believes a working-class revolt is imminent. Marlene supports Margaret Thatcher as she is a “tough lady” and is like herself due to being successful in her career. She also sees Thatcher as a symbol of feminism “First female Prime Minister. Terrifco.” However, feminism is associated with left wing politics such as what Joyce supports. Despite Margaret Thatcher overcoming social barriers to reach her position, she believed that women belonged in the home. This shows a contradiction of what Thatcher represents to what she believes and practises. This makes Marlene’s support of her confusing as she believes in the Thatcherite capitalist values which will help her job but as she is a woman, under the same rule, she should belong in the domestic sphere. This is supported by Joyce saying “What’s good first woman if it’s her?” This is also conveys her disregard for the working class.
    Joyce is the opposite of Marlene as she supports working class ideals in which they both grew up in. Joyce scrapes expensive cars because she hates posh people and believes that “nothing’s changed for most people”. Joyce and Marlene contrast so much that Joyce says “you’re ashamed of me if I come to your office” and thinks that Marlene “thinks of nothing but herself”. Joyce is concerned about Angie’s future aspirations under the Thatcher government yet puts Kit down earlier on in the play for wanting to be a “nuclear physicist”. It’s as if there is a limit on how successful women can be. Joyce calls Angie lazy, stupid and frightened which is exactly the kind of people that Marlene won’t support which is ironic seeing as Angie is her biological daughter. This is emphasised by the last line of the play by Angie being “frightening”.

  12. Liv says:

    I have found that the brutality we see in Top Girls is a prominent feature which continues throughout the play. Often it stems from the nature of the women who have realised by now that to succeed in the inherently “men-led” world, you must be honest no matter the cost. Predominantly this technique in displayed with the working women of the play, who seldom hold back from telling others what they need to hear or what they personally believe. Marlene herself tells Jeanine that she shouldn’t let her prospective employer know that she’s “saving to get married”. In another interview Nell says “Christ what a waste of time” to Shona who has just told her about her alleged job. The harsh words of the women who work at the agency intrigues me as the idea of the sisterhood is put almost on hold when it comes to finding women jobs; they know that to succeed in the workplace and therefore gain more respect in society they must adopt a stern exterior in order to show the women they are dealing with what they must themselves do to get a strong position. Gloria Steinem said that “any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.” The language Churchill uses supports this idea; the women at the agency are being cruel to be kind.

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