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The opening of Top Girls. Starter: Remind the person sitting to you T wo facts about life in Britain in the 1970s T wo facts about Margaret Thatcher. . Learning Objective: To explore the opening of the play. .

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The opening of Top Girls

Starter: Remind the person sitting to you

Two facts about life in Britain in the 1970s

Two facts about Margaret Thatcher. 

Learning Objective: To explore the opening of the play.


Isabella Bird (1831 - 1904) lived in Edinburgh, travelled extensively between the ages of forty and seventy. 

Lady Nijo (b.1258) Japanese, was an Emperor\'s courtesan and later a Buddhist nun who travelled on foot through Japan.


Dull Gret is the subject of the Brueghel painting, DulleGriet, in which a woman in an apron and armour leads a crowd of women charging through he\'ll and fighting the devils. 

Patient Griselda is the obedient wife whose story is told by Chaucer in \'the Clerk\'s Tale‘. 

Pope Joan, disguised as a man, is thought to have been Pope between 845 - 856. 


Some notes on layouts:

A speech usually follows the one immediately before it BUT:

when one character starts speaking before the other has finished, the point of interruption is marked /. 

Isabella: This is the Emperor of Japan?/I once met the Emperor of Morocco.

Nijo: In fact he was the ex-Emperor.

2) A character sometimes continues speaking right through another\'s speech:

Isabella: When I was forty I thought my life was over./Oh I was pitiful. I was

Nijo: I didn\'t say I felt it for twenty years. Not every minute. 

Isabella: sent on a cruise for my health and I felt even worse. Pains in my bones, pins and needles ... Etc. 


Act One: 

Restaurant. Table set for dinner with white tablecloth.

Six places. Marlene and Waitress. 

Task: Let\'s read until the entry of Pope Joan.

What do we learn about the characters in the opening scene.

Note - there is a lack of stage directions so therefore you need to concentrate on WHAT they are saying. 

Think about:

- what are they speaking about

- how do they interact with each other

- can you find any comic parts beginning to be developed at the beginning?


Some interesting points:

Marlene: I\'d like a bottle of Frascati straight away if you\'ve got one really cold.


Marlene: Poor Hennie. 

Isabella: Do you have a sister?

Marlene: Yes in fact. 

Isabella: Hennie was happy. She was good. I did miss its face, my own pet. But I couldn\'t stay in Scotland. I loathed the constant murk. 

Marlene: Ah! Nijo! 


Nijo: It\'s a literary allusion to a tenth-century epic,/ His Majesty was very cultured. 

Isabella: This is the Emperor of Japan? I once met the Emperor of Morocco.

Nijo: In fact he was the ex-Emperor. 


Nijo: Priests were often vagrants, so why not a nun? You think I shouldn\'t? / I still did what my father wanted.

Marlene: No no, I think you should. / I think it was wonderful. 


Can you begin to find any common threads in the descriptions of the historical characters in the play? 

Why do you think Caryl Churchill may have chosen these characters as opposed to more well-known women? 


The first Act is something of an absurd, or dream sequence. Marlene celebrates her promotion in the Top Girls employment agency by inviting other top girls to a meal. The women are from different centuries, different social classes and different cultures, some are historical figures and others are fictional creations. The women chatter and share stories round the table, and through the tales we learn about how each woman gave up some part of themselves to be \'successful\' in their patriarchal societies - their role as mother, lover, wife or partner.