Vancouver Playhouse Company
Top Girls
by Caryl Churchill

Director Glynis Leyshon Set Design Pam Johnson Costume Design Sheila White Lighting Design Gerald King Sound Design John McCulloch Stage Manager Rick Rinder

Dates and Venue 9 – 30 May 2009 | Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer Jane Penistan

What a fantastic dinner party opens this show! What an incredible collection of real or mythical characters from bygone ages eat, drink, and are merry in this chic 20th century dining room.

The fantastic guests are paralleled in the characters later in the play. Only Marlene, the hostess of the dinner party, remains her 20th century self throughout. Jennifer Clement sustains this complicated and intense role with grace, elegance, discipline and deeply felt emotion in a brilliant performance.

Others in the cast mirror the dinner guests in their widely differing 20th century roles, as the scenes shift through Marlene’s office, the Top Girls Employment Agency with her employees and clients, and Marlene’s family’s and home.

Jillian Fargey, first seen as the intrepid Victorian world traveller, Isabella Bird, reappears as Marlene’s gangly, excitable teenage niece, Angie. Fargey manages to be entirely believable as an emancipated 19th century woman and an uninhibited 20th century adolescent, without falling into the traps of either over playing or caricaturing either character. Both are cleverly judged and impeccably executed performances.

Patient Griselda reappears as Joyce, Marlene’s sister and mother of Angie.

Megan Leitch suffers through both her trying relationships in vastly different ways which the actress demonstrates in two nicely differentiated characterizations.

Meg Roe appears as the legendary Breugel peasant woman, the personification of avarice and belligerence. She brings an earthiness to the refined dinner party and adds considerable broad humour to the amusing, but well mannered entertainment. She reappears as Angie’s neighbour and teenage “best friend.”

Others in the cast give excellent performances in their dual or triple roles as other dinner guests, office personnel or an outraged ambitious wife.

Pam Johnson’s opening set is sophisticated and pleasing and subsequent settings are appropriate and quickly changed, in some instances by the well-drilled members of the cast. Lighting is admirably suited to the various venues of the action, bright and scintillating in the opening scene and well modulated to the ensuing different settings.

Sheila White’s opening scene costumes are magnificent in their different periods and countries: colourful, well researched and expressive of both the era and character of the assorted guests and their model hostess.

Nor should the well trained staff of the household or the office and its clients be forgotten, as their clothes too are entirely fitting for each character in place and time.

Glynis Leyshon has given the audience a sophisticated, well dressed, and splendidly acted, entertaining presentation of a clever, witty and thought provoking play. Don’t miss it.

© 2009 Jane Penistan