Top Girls make a play for Groombridge…

Olympian Louis Smith
BACK TO THE 80S: Set in the early Thatcher years, Top Girls follows an ambitious businesswoman named Marlene during the aftermath of her promotion at work


“This play’s themes, which include women in work, motherhood, class and feminism, are still relevant today”

UPDATED WITH NEW DATES: Following last week’s International Women’s Day, Groombridge Amateur Dramatic Society is putting on the 80s feminist cultural classic Top Girls next month. Eileen Leahy chats to Assistant Director Douglas Phillips about this iconic piece of theatre…

This year marks the 65th year of the Groombridge Amateur Dramatic Society – or GADS as it is more commonly known amongst its members.

To celebrate such a milestone anniversary, the amateur dramatic society is putting on Top Girls by Caryl Churchill from Wednesday April 20 to Saturday April 23 at 7.45pm at Groombridge Village Hall.

The famous play, which examines the issue of feminism courtesy of its central character, career woman Marlene, first premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1982. It was also one of the first plays of the era to tackle the impact of Thatcherism.

The opening scene is the most well known part of the play: Marlene hosts a dinner party for a group of famous women from history, all of whom have had to give up some vital piece of themselves along the way.

The guests include Pope Joan, who ruled in the Middle Ages and disguised herself as a man; the explorer Isabella Bird; Flemish folklore figure Dull Gret; the Japanese courtesan Lady Nijo; and Patient Griselda, the wife from Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale.

Set in the early Thatcher years, Top Girls follows the ambitious businesswoman Marlene during the aftermath of her promotion at work. As well as the aforementioned fantastical dinner party, we also see how Marlene’s life develops in her new management role, and how her new promotion impacts her working-class sister.

“We are particularly excited to be putting on this production for a few reasons,” explains GADS’ Assistant Director Douglas Phillips.

“Beyond the play’s themes of women in work, motherhood, class, individualism and feminism being as relevant today as they were when the play was written in 1982, we have a personal connection to the play. Our lead actor, Jo Donelan, was shadowed in her work as a recruiter by the National Theatre cast when they put on the play in 2019.

“With part of the play set in a recruitment agency, Jo and her company were sought out to provide inspiration and authenticity to the cast – she lived the life of the characters.”

Douglas adds that the society is very happy to celebrate the directorial debut of Molly Byford, a recent graduate of Liberal Arts and long-time member of GADS.

“Molly has taken on the tricky task of directing such a thematically complex and technically difficult play. With a 12-strong, all-female cast ranging from teenagers to retirees, she has created the opportunity not only for women in our society to hone their acting skills but to discuss the larger issues considered in the play. Whilst the number of female playwrights is growing, there is still a great disparity in professional and amateur theatre,” says Douglas.

Throughout Top Girls, Marlene reckons with her own issues on class, her familial relationships and the sacrifices she had to make to become a ‘top girl’.

“The play’s narrative and themes are straightforward – that is until Churchill masterfully rearranges the play’s timeline to highlight the intersections between sacrifice, selfishness, and personal success, deepening the core of the play,” continues Douglas.

“Written in 1982, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls has become a classic of contemporary British theatre and remains ever relevant.”

Tickets cost £10 (£7 for concessions) and are available from:

And Groombridge Post Office


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