Top Girls in London at the Aldwych Theatre

Top Girls

Play by Caryl Churchill. It's Thatcher's England and hard-nosed, go-getting businesswoman Marlene is hosting a dinner party to celebrate her promotion to MD of the Top Girls Employment Agency. Her guests - all powerful women from myth and history - make for an extraordinary gathering. A provocative study of success, and what happens to those who get left behind.

Original London Production (Royal Court Theatre) - 1982

London Revival (Royal Court Theatre and Television) - 1991

Original West End Production (Aldwych Theatre) - 2002

UK Radio Broadcast - 2006

1st West End Revival (Trafalgar Studios) - 2011

London Revival (National Theatre) - 2019

Caryl Churchill's other London theatre plays include Far Away and A Number.


Original London Production (Royal Court Theatre) - 1982

Previewed 28 August 1982, Opened 1 September 1982, Closed 9 October 1982 at the Royal Court Theatre in London
Previewed 4 February 1983, Opened 8 February 1983, Closed 19 March 1983 at the Royal Court Theatre in London

The cast for both the 1982 and 1983 seasons featured Gwen Taylor as 'Marlene' with Selina Cadell as 'Pope Joan'/'Louise', Lindsay Duncan as 'Lady Nijo'/'Win', Deborah Findlay as 'Isabella Bird'/'Joyce'/'Mrs Kidd', Carole Hayman as 'Dull Gret'/'Angie', Lesley Manville as 'Patient Griselda'/'Nell'/'Jeanine', and Lou Wakefield as 'Waitress'/'Kit'/'Shona'.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark with sets by Peter Hartwell, costumes by Pam Tait and lighting by Robin Myerscough-Walker.

This production was originally due to start public previews from 20 August 1982 with an official opening on 24 August 1982, but this was delayed when, nine days before it was due to open, the director Max Stafford-Clark fired Lynn Dearth who has been due to play the lead role of 'Marlene' and was replaced by Gwen Taylor.

Between the two original Royal Court Seasons, this production was presented in New York at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre with the original cast for a four week run. Following the second Royal Court Theatre season, the production then returned to the Joseph Papp Public Theatre for a ten-week run with a new cast.


London Revival (Royal Court Theatre and Television) - 1991

Previewed 10 April 1991, Opened 15 April 1991, Closed 15 June 1991 at the Royal Court Theatre in London

The cast featured Lesley Manville as 'Marlene' with Deborah Findlay as 'Isabella Bird'/'Joyce'/'Mrs Kidd', Beth Goddard as 'Waitress'/'Kit'/'Shona', Cecily Hobb as 'Pope Joan'/'Louise', Sarah Lam as 'Lady Nijo'/'Win', Anna Patrick as 'Patient Griselda'/'Nell'/'Jeanine', and Lesley Sharp as 'Dull Gret'/'Angie'.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark with sets by Anabel Temple, costumes by Pam Tait and lighting by Steve Whitson.

Both Lesley Manville and Deborah Findlay had appeared in the original production, though only Deborah Findlay reprised the same role.

This production was filmed for the BBC and was broadcast on BBC Two Television on Saturday 2 November 1991.


Original West End Production (Aldwych Theatre) - 2002

Previewed 8 January 2002, Opened 9 January 2002, Closed 2 February 2002 at the Aldwych Theatre in London

The twentieth anniversary production of Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls in London directed by Thea Sharrock

The cast features Hattie Ladbury as 'Marlene' along with Helen Anderson as 'Lady Nijo'/'Joyce'/'Mrs Kidd', Elizabeth Berrington as 'Isabella Bird'/'Nell'/'Jeanine', Pascale Burgess as 'Dull Gret'/'Angie', Tameka Empson as 'Waitress'/'Kit'/'Shona', Joanna Scanlon as 'Pope Joan'/'Louise', and Sophie Shaw as 'Patient Griselda'/'Win'.

Directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by Rachel Blues, lighting by Johanna Town and sound by Mic Pool.

"The originality of Caryl Churchill's work takes the breath away, again and again. Imagination nerve - and authority. Nineteen years on, her play Top Girls now looks a modern classic... When Top Girls had its last big London revival in 1990, it seemed perfect but slick: so clever as to be not quite true. Top Girls criticises Thatcherism and the Thatcher government's failure of the weaker elements of society, and what staggers me is that this aspect of the play seems today yet more relevant. And the whole play seems more timeless, less contrived... This production, directed by Thea Sharrock and brought to the West End by the James Menzies-Kitchin Memorial Trust, is a major event. It's seven little-known actors all announce themselves as important performers of serious accomplishment. Rachel Blues emerges as a designer of poetic originality worthy of Churchill's play... The trans-historical dinner party of Act One revolves, memorably, and the women all speak across each other, brilliantly; and, from then on, stage space and stage rhythm change eloquently from scene to scene. The production leaves us, finally, with a poetic sense of mystery." The Financial Times

"Caryl Churchill's celebrated play about feminism in the '80s gets a welcome revival on its 20th anniversary. It may look a tad dated now Mrs Thatcher is no longer at No 10, but it is never dull. The all-female cast of seven is led by Hattie Ladbury as ball-breaker Marlene... In the powerful final act she returns to her humble roots where the cost of her climb up the career ladder is revealed. Top-drawer stuff." The Daily Mirror

"Just as Peter Brook is about to stage Caryl Churchill's latest tremendous play, Far Away, the first by a living English playwright to be directed by him in his theatre in Paris, the Oxford Stage Company sweeps into the West End with this riveting earlier play, in a riveting production by Thea Sharrock... Top Girls is usually thought of as a feminist play, but that is far too narrow a definition. Churchill is not on the campaign trail; she is neither demanding nor offering anything. No, this is a play about the feminine condition.... History, imagination and the hard-bitten, hard-hearted present echo each other obliquely, teasingly, but eloquently. There is no such thing as free success. Freedom has a price, mostly paid for by those who do not have it. It is not enough to say that to succeed you have to be like a man. Is there an answer? Like all humane and subversive dramatists, Churchill leaves you to think for yourself." The Sunday Times

"Caryl Churchill's play, Top Girls, made a splash at the Royal Court where it was first staged in 1982... I can understand why, for it must have seemed such a bold, inventive scrutiny of where feminism had got to then. But Thea Sharrock's confident revival at the Aldwych can't disguise that it is also tiresome, contrived, underpowered, overstated and out-of-date. Moreover, it takes two-and-a-half hours before its unsteady grip moves from one's head to one's heart. It begins with a surreal dinner party hosted by Marlene to celebrate her promotion, above the men in the company, in an employment agency... In the second act, we see emancipated Marlene at work, proving herself better than the blokes. The third part reveals the price of her success, how pushy Marlene got on her Thatcherite bike and left East Anglia, leaving her sister to bring up her backward and inconvenient daughter. It's a bleak picture, in which Eighties top girls are shown to behave just as men always have, trampling on the weak in their race onwards and upwards. A night out for students of feminism and theatrical historians only." The Mail on Sunday

Top Girls in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 8 January 2002, opened on 9 January 2002, and closed on 2 February 2002.


UK Radio Broadcast - 2006

Saturday 22 April 2006 on BBC Radio 4

The cast featured Emma Fielding as 'Marlene', Sheila Hancock as 'Pope Joan', Siobhan Finneran as 'Louise', Brigit Forsyth as 'Isabella Bird', Helen McCrory as 'Joyce', Julia Rounthwalte as 'Mrs Kidd', Olwen May as 'Patient Griselda', Amuka Bird as 'Nell', Lulu Popplewell as 'Kit', R'Na Mahoney as 'Shona', Naoko Mori as 'Lady Nijo', Claire Rushbrook as 'Win', Saskia Mulder as 'Dull Gret', Emily Chennery as 'Angie', and Ellanne Byrne as 'Jeanine'.

Directed for radio by Nadia Molinari, with music by Dominique Le Gendre.

Presented as the 4th of six radio plays broadcast weekly on Saturdays on BBC Radio 4 to mark the 50th anniversary of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in 2006. The six-part series featured John Osborne's Look Back in Anger on Saturday 1 April, Arnold Wesker's Roots on Saturday 8 April, Edward Bond's The Sea on Saturday 15 April, Caryl Churchill's Top Girls on Saturday 22 April, Ron Hutchinson's Rat in the Skull on Saturday 29 April, and David Storey's Home on Saturday 6 May.


1st West End Revival (Trafalgar Studios) - 2011

Previewed 5 August 2011, Opened 16 August 2011, Closed 29 October 2011 at the Trafalgar Studio 1 (now Trafalgar Theatre)

A major revival of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls in London starring Suranne Jones

The cast features Suranne Jones as 'Marlene' with Lucy Briers as 'Pope Joan'/'Louise', Laura Elphinstone as 'Isabella Bird'/'Joyce'/'Mrs Kidd', Stella Gonet as 'Patient Griselda'/'Nell', Lisa Kerr as 'Waitress'/'Kit'/'Shona', Catherine McCormack as 'Lady Nijo'/'Win', and Olivia Poulet as 'Dull Gret'/'Angie'/'Jeanine'.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark with designs by Tim Shortall, lighting by Jason Taylor, sound by Ian Dickinson and video design by Finn Ross. It is presented in London as a co-production between Out of Joint and the Chichester Festival Theatre where this revival was originally seen (previewed from 23 June 2011, opened on 30 June 2011 and closed on 16 July 2011).

EXTENDED: This production, which was originally scheduled to close on 15 October 2011, has now been extended by one week, up to 29 October 2011.

Suranne Jones' London theatre credits include the role of 'Joanne Galloway' in David Esbjornson's West End stage premiere of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men at the Haymarket Theatre in 2005.

Lucy Briers' London theatre credits include the role of 'Martha Babakina' in Michael Grandage's revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008.

Stella Gonet's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Kyra Hollis' in Richard Eyre's revival of David Hare's Skylight at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1997; 'Isabella' in Steven Pimlott's revival of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Barbican Theatre in 1995; 'Roxanne' in Elijah Moshinsky's revival of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1992; 'Arte O'Neal' in Howard Davies' revival of Dion Boucicault's The Shaughraun at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1989; and 'Irina' in John Barton's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters at the Barbican Theatre in 1988.

Catherine McCormack's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Jo' in Anthony Page's revival of Edward Albee's The Lady From Dubuque at the Haymarket Theatre in 2007; 'Annabella Schmidt' in the original cast of Maria Aitken's production of John Buchan's The 39 Steps at the Tricycle Theatre, and transfer to the West End's Criterion Theatre in 2006; 'Claudia' in Roger Michell's production of Joanna Murray-Smith's Honour at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in 2003; 'Sian' in Fiona Buffini's production of Moira Buffini's Dinner at the National Theatre's Loft Theatre in 2002; 'Ann Deever' in Howard Davies' revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in 2000; and the title role of 'Anna' in Michael Attenborough's production of Mike Cullen's Anna Weiss at the Whitehall Theatre in 1999.

"Marlene says there's no more working class, just people too 'stupid, lazy or frightened' to succeed. The 1980s are "going to be stupendous". In the boondocks beyond Ipswich her sister Joyce is a cleaner, a single mother, not stupendous. Joyce's dim teenage daughter Angie is mesmerised by her successful aunt, who is CEO of an employment agency. The fascination is not mutual. The weakest will go to the wall, for this is the dawn of Thatcher's Britain as satirised by Caryl Churchill in her 1982 play. It is a bit of history, too, because its director Max Stafford-Clark directed the original Royal Court production and returns, offering a new generation its clever, angry take on capitalism and women." The Times

"It poses the tirelessly pertinent question: Can a woman have it all? And, if so, at what price to herself and to society?... Top Girls eloquently makes the point that if women are going to get to the top and stay there, they will probably have to sacrifice their maternal instinct and behave as ruthlessly as men, or even more so. Nor are they all sisters under the skin. 'I believe in the individual. Look at me,' Marlene says. Shoulder pads aside, Max Stafford-Clark's superbly directed, well-acted production makes this a penetrating, provocative play for today." The Mail on Sunday

Top Girls in London at the Trafalgar Studios 1 previewed from 5 August 2011, opened on 16 August 2011, and closed on 29 October 2011


London Revival (National Theatre) - 2019

Previewed 26 March 2019, Opened 3 April 2019, Closed 22 June 2019 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre

The cast featured Katherine Kingsley as 'Marlene', Amanda Lawrence as 'Pope Joan', Amanda Hadingue as 'Louise', Siobhan Redmond as 'Isabella Bird', Lucy Black as 'Joyce', Roisin Rae as 'Mrs Kidd', Lucy Ellinson as 'Patient Griselda', Nadia Williams as 'Nell', Ebony Jonelle as 'Waitress', Ashna Rabheru as 'Kit', Jessica Brindle as 'Shona', Wendy Kweh as 'Lady Nijo', Charlotte Lucas as 'Win', Ashley McGuire as 'Dull Gret', Liv Hill as 'Angie', and Naomi Yang as 'Jeanine', with Kate Tydman, and Marcia Lecky.

Directed by Lyndsey Turner, with sets by Ian MacNeil, costumes by Merle Hensel, lighting by Jack Knowles, music by Cassie Kinoshi, and sound by Christopher Shutt.