Top Girls at Minerva Theatre, Chichester

CBBC Presenter Michael Absalom  visits You're a Star Theatre School

Theatre school visited by CBBC presenter

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Nearly 30 years after Caryl Churchill’s play was premiered, it remains plainly pertinent.

Then, it reflected Thatcherism’s failure to advance the cause of women in society, despite the central figure’s toast to ‘the way we have changed our lives’.

And now? Well, this week it was mainly the mothers who took time off work when a strike closed schools.

Top Girls indicates that even where the cause has been advanced, it has sometimes been at a cruel price – as reflected in the central role of the managing director of a London employment agency who has risen from country-bumpkin origins to speak in an accent as razor-sharp as her black, short-skirted suit.

This is Suranne Jones of Coronation Street and now Scott And Bailey fame. Here she oozes self-awareness, both in bossy, arrogant facade and importantly in the half-hidden pain behind it.

The play’s construction is unusual, beginning with a fantasy dinner party for famous women from history before moving into realism, yet it does work.

That first act loses clarity in Max Stafford-Clark’s new production through the manic rat-a-tat-tat of overlapping dialogue but has rare bravura from the likes of Lucy Briers as Pope Joan and Stella Gonet as Isabella Bird.

Indeed all seven actors shine, not least Olivia Poulet as a troubled child – and in the first act as a helmeted figure slurping wine straight from the bottle and soup from the bowl.

Until July 16.

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