When Caryl Churchill's Top Girls was first performed in Britain in the early 1980s, it caused quite a stir. Written when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain, the play raised many uncomfortable questions about where the feminist movement was heading at the time, and how women were adapting to their changing role in society. Now, over 20 years later, the play is being staged for the first time in the Czech Republic. Caryl Churchill herself was in the country at the weekend to mark the occasion.
In a packed conference room at the Czech National Theatre, Caryl Churchill answers questions from an audience made up of academics, journalists and members of the public regarding her play Top Girls, which was premiered here at the weekend. Written in the 1980s at the height of Thatcherism, the play focuses on women from different historical periods as a means of exploring the challenges facing women as they adapted to the social changes brought about by feminism. Marek Horoscak, the literary manager of the National Theatre explains some of the reasons for putting on the play:
"One of the themes of the play is the issue of [women] choosing between having a career or a family, which is something that is quite topical here in the Czech Republic at the moment. We also wanted to present the work of Caryl Churchill, which is unknown here."
One aspect of the play that provokes considerable debate is the significance of the lead character Marlene, who reaches the top of her profession as a recruitment manager, but gives up her child in order to achieve this. In some ways, this is the dilemma that faces many Czech women today, who find themselves struggling to balance the demands of professional advancement with their desire to start a family. Marek Horoscak agrees:
"Well, I think it's an issue that is quite important here now, because many women here are pursuing their careers, and are not having children or starting families. I don't know what people will say about it. The play is written in a way that does not provide a definite conclusion. It's up to the audience and the people who see it to think about it... But I think it's important to stage it now and to offer it to the audience, and to confront this issue"
Top Girls was first staged in 1982 and has since become a staple of British theatre, It is also included on the national curriculum there. Marek Horoscak was unsure as to why it has taken a culturally significant piece like Top Girls such a long time to reach the Czech stage:
"I don't know, I really don't know why a theatre here didn't choose it before. I think it's a good play, maybe it's a bit intellectual for Czech audiences and more high-brow than what they want."
The Czech production of Top Girls is now running at Stavovske Divadlo in Prague.
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