Feminist theatre, medieval women and epaulettes: overview of the best girls

Zoe Smith

Do you love 80s music and fashion? Are you excited to see more surreal feminist theater in Cambridge? Have you ever wondered what would happen if a high priestess, a Japanese concubine-turned-Buddhist monk from the 13th century, a Scottish adventurer from the 19th century, and a prosperous working woman from the 80s got together for dinner? Then look no further, because Caryl Churchill’s hit play best girls arrives at the ADC Theater in Cambridge from October 19-23.

Last week, I caught up with director and Cambridge student Molly Taylor to find out what drew her to the play and why you should almost certainly book a ticket to see best girls next month.

Q: So Molly, could you please tell our readers briefly what the play best girls is about?

Molly: Wow, you’re really starting off with something really tricky! So I would say best girls is a play on employment, women at work and, more broadly, women and their place in the world. It’s kind of about the balance that a lot of women play between work and childcare, and the sacrifices they have to make to get there. In short, it is about the intergenerational experiences that connect women. The first act is about women throughout history, the second is about women in the workplace, and the third is about women left at home and, in a way, left behind… So it’s a nuanced look at the Female Achievement Award.

“Each of the acts offers different challenges – in a way, it’s like directing three mini-plays”

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Q: What was about Caryl Churchill best girls who made you want to stage a version of the play at the ADC?

Molly: Well, best girls, I think, is very attractive as a play, especially after facing restrictions, due to the prospect of having such a large cast. The play is full of complex female characters who aren’t always likable but are all exciting, and the idea of ​​leading such a large group of complex characters got me so excited. In a world where COVID-19 has reduced theater to its very bare essentials, it’s exciting to return with a massive female-centric play, especially given what women have been through during COVID-19, juggling home work and child care. It’s also a play where each of the numbers offers different challenges, it’s a bit like staging three mini-plays! It’s an epic format and offers a sense of fantastical surrealism, but it’s also grounded in real human experiences.

Q: best girls originally created in 1982; despite the changes that have occurred since then, do you think that theater that talks about gender, and especially the place of women in the world of work, is still important today?

Molly: Obviously, since the 80s, we’ve had a more nuanced discussion about gender – mainstream discussions aren’t purely male/female anymore. But there’s still a lot of talk to be had about women and the multiple roles they often have to juggle, especially when pursuing a career. COVID-19 has exposed the crucial fact that when children are left at home and someone has to teach them, it’s usually women who rise to the task – often our careers are seen as the most disposable. . The recent “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” joke signals our continued focus on gendered success, especially in the workplace. Marlene (the main character) is a bit of a “girlboss” herself, stubbornly pursuing a rather limited idea of ​​success. Marlene has a very glamorous job, but it becomes clear that to achieve it many people have been left in her wake. best girls is a play that shows how success for some people can mean failure for others, and gender often plays a role in how we measure that success.

“Mainstream discussions are no longer purely based on the masculine/feminine binomial”

Q: If you had to choose, who would you say is your favorite character in best girls?

Molly: My favorite character is probably Joyce or Angie – the two family members Marlene leaves behind in her hometown to pursue her career. I really like how Joyce exposes Marlene’s past, delivering a lot of honest truth. She is very direct in a room where many characters are talking in circles. I also think Angie is such a devastating character: so adorable and naive, but also completely brutal and totally unlike anyone else on the show.

If you also ask who I would most like to play in best girls, it would have to be an “Act 1 character”, so maybe Pope Joan – a medieval figure who disguised herself as a man and became the Pope (apparently), or Isabella Bird – an adventurer and 19th century Scottish traveler – because they are both such strange parts!

Q: Finally, in best girls, main character Marlene hosts a dinner party and invites five famous/fictional women to join her; If you could have dinner with five famous women, who would you choose?

Molly: Oh my god, five famous women in history! It’s difficult. Ok, I would definitely choose someone with my degree – English – so probably Margery Kempe. She wrote Margery Kempe’s book; she’s a medieval English writer and a really funny woman. She used to “groan” a lot before God, to the point that her husband used to pretend he didn’t know her. I suspect she would be quite irritating at a dinner party, so I’m not sure… Probably also Emma Thompson, I think she’s so cool. Maybe Hannah Gadsby, she’s an Australian comedian who did this amazing stand-up called ‘Nannette’. I would like to discuss with her; she really changed the way I see comedy. Also, I would probably choose Cleopatra who (apparently) delivered herself in a rolled-up carpet to Julius Caesar, in order to seduce him and secure his reign. She was so rich; I love him so much. Well, probably my mother.

Top Girls is at the ADC Theater Cambridge from the 15th to the 23rdrd October, you can book your tickets here: https://www.adctheatre.com/whats-on/play/top-girls/

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