Discuss the Importance of the Restaurant Scene in Top Girls.

Discuss the importance of the restaurant scene in Top Girls.

Act I of Caryl Churchill's play Top Girls depicts a dinner party in a restaurant thrown by the main character Marlene to celebrate her recent promotion to managing director of the employment agency she works for; the titular Top Girls. The importance of this scene may be overlooked perhaps because of its largely fantastical content. But this scene sets up many of the themes that run through the play and prepares the audience for the revelation in the third act that the play is as much to do with class and socio-economic policies within a patriarchal society as it is to do with gender politics.

Marlene has invited five guests, women who are either long dead or fictional characters. Aside from herself and the waitress who serves them no other character in this Act can be said to be real in the same way that the women we encounter in Acts II and III seem to be real. These acts have more of a   'social realist' style so Act I can seem to jar, stylistically, with the rest of the play. However, it could be suggested that this, along with the non-linear time frame, is a deliberate choice on the part of the author. Caryl Churchill has commented that her own particular field of work was historically largely dominated by men and so traditional ways of writing plays could be said to be very much masculine. Stories tend to be linear with a definite climax. The language and structure of Top Girls is anything but linear, characters talk over one another, the time frame jumps from present to past, it begins with what seems to be a fantasy sequence, and ends ambiguously. This non-chronological almost cyclical style mirrors Marlene's story. Moving as it does from celebrations in the present (Act I), to what should be the end of the play (Act II) where she is forced to confront the consequences of her choices, (Angie's visit to her office, her confrontation with Mrs Kidd). The   conclusion (Act III) is set a year...