Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Opening with a surreal dinner party, newly appointed MD of Top Girls employment agency Marlene is celebrating her success with her girlfriends ; an interesting mix of strong women from history and literature. Each has their own unique story which they retell with vigour; seemingly competing in their efforts to impress one another before descending into a wine-fuelled confessional of the absolute misery befallen them at the hands of men.
Marlene too has her own secret tragedy but has boxed it up, moving onwards and upwards in the hope it’s forgotten as she climbs the male dominated corporate ladder. However the past has a habit of catching up with us and reveals itself in Act 2 resulting in some hard truths being spoken that even the finest whiskey can’t soften.
Director Suba Das has relocated elements of Caryl Churchill’s much celebrated play to 1980s Liverpool, an effective choice and one that gives the story some relatability. The scenes between Marlene (Tala Gouveia) and her seemingly embittered sister (Alicya Eyo) offering both depth and convincing realism amongst a play of vignettes that at times lack cohesion. Marlene’s return to her sister in the home city she resents is acted out brilliantly by Gouveia and Eyo. The scene feels raw and believable with the narrative given time to breathe and sting appropriately.
The employment agency vignettes are entertaining and thought provoking as the female staff gate-keep roles and opportunities while discussing their own personal lives and the control they feel they have on them.
Special mention must go to Elizabeth Twells who stood in for Natalie Thomas at short notice, script in hand and gave a strong, confident performance in each of her multiple roles.
Set and costume designer Ellie Light has given this production an impressive and slick look, switching the style from modern city office to Liverpool terrace superbly while the thumping 80’s soundtrack and additional composition from Nicola T. Chang is a real highlight.
The overall piece will challenge, however I felt nothing for any of the characters and wished this revival had tried less hard to be cerebral and better at connecting with the audience. While brilliantly acted and visually impressive the emotional connection never materialised.
Top Girls is on at Liverpool’s Everyman until 25th March tickets available here.