STC is kicking off the year with Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, a critique of feminism written while Margaret Thatcher was at the height of her powers. Still blistering with relevance three and a half decades later, this surreal dinner party and its aftermath documents the price paid by women looking to build successful careers.
After earning a promotion at work, Marlene takes the unprecedented step of inviting several prominent women from history and myth to celebrate. Among her guests are Pope Joan, who supposedly presided over the Catholic Church in disguise during the ninth century, famous explorer Isabella Bird, and Patient Griselda, a character from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. As they share their stories, they also discuss society's (largely negative) approach to ambitious women. The cost is continuing, they say, and Marlene does not have to long to wait before the skewed system begins to extract its toll on her.
Directed by Imara Savage, the all-female cast includes Paula Arundell, Kate Box, Heather Mitchell, and Helen Thomson as Marlene. Top Girls is a timely reminder of how seldom opportunities for true social change come along and the importance of pushing hard for it when they do.