Press-Republican

Out & About

May 1, 2014

Segal Centre presents Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls'

MONTREAL — Now this is how you throw a dinner party.

The rise to the top and the meaning of success are explored in Caryl Churchill’s 1980s British play “Top Girls,” which opens tonight at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

Set in Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s Britain, “Top Girls” follows the story of Marlene, a rising executive who has just been promoted to the top of a London employment agency. To celebrate, she throws a dinner party and invites a fantasy guest list that includes the Victorian adventuress Isabella Bird, a Japanese Emperor’s mistress, Pope Joan and a Flemish avenger born from a Brueghel painting. In all, seven actresses portray 16 characters with Laura Condlln leading the way in the plum role of Marlene.

And yes, it’s spelled Condlln.

“It’s Welsh,” she said. “So don’t put a vowel at the end.”

The spelling sometimes creates a little confusion.

“I actually had to send my university degree back,” Condlln quipped.

As for the play?

“Where do you begin?” she asked. “It’s wonderful, it’s domestic, it’s very human and yet so worldly and universal and political.”

Condlln says one could consider it a feminist play.

“At the start,” she said. “And then it turns into a socialist play.”

DINNER PARTY

The opening scene is a “surrealist” dinner party, indeed Marlene’s celebration for her new promotion.

“And her guests are famous dead women,” Condlln said.

Marlene choosing the guest list is an off-stage given.

“It’s a puzzle,” she said.

But her character of Marlene is the only one in the cast who doesn’t change characters.

“I move through the play following my journey,” Condlln said. “So the audience follows the choices that Marlene makes and can reflect and either agree or disagree with them as they realize what’s she’s done to get where she is.”

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