Set in the early 1980s, Top Girls depicts the lifestyle and life choices of its central character, Marlene. She is a successful career woman, who has just received a major promotion, and has unequivocally fought her way to the top. Famously using iconic female, historical figures, the play explores the realities of being female and the potential price of achieving success. The play is nonlinear in its structure, highlighting the different sides of being a thriving career woman in the 1980s. In the opening act, Marlene hosts a dinner party for several famous, female figures from history and literature, including the Victorian British explorer Isabella Bird, Pope Joan, and Patient Griselda from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The unlikely group discuss their own histories and reflect on what being a female meant for them in their own time. As the play moves on to focus on high-flying Marlene, it becomes clear that her professional success has irreparably damaged her personal life. Her relationship with her sister, Joyce, is strained and distant, while Joyce’s daughter, Angie, does not realize that Marlene is actually her mother. Leaping back and forth in time, Marlene attempts to make sense of her life and come to terms with the mistakes she has made in the past.
Editor’s Note: The actresses in this play normally play multiple roles, apart from the actress playing Marlene.
Top Girls guide sections