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Top Girls Act Summary

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Act Summary
Act One
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Marlene hosts a dinner party to celebrate a recent promotion as Managing Director of
the Top Girls employment agency.
All of Marlene’s guests are famous women from the past.
Working women of the present- Marlene
References to the roles and rights of women across the world and throughout time
Guests:
Isabella Bird- 19th century writer, explorer and naturalist.
Lady Nijo- 13th century courtesan who became a wandering Buddhist nun
after she fell out of favour at court.
Dull Gret- the subject of a Flemish renaissance painting by Brueghel.
Pope Joan- woman who disguised herself as a man and was appointed pope in
the middle-ages.
Patient Griselda- character from The Canterbury Tales- Chaucer- whose
obedience to her husband is the face of horrible mistreatment.
They recount their life stories, constantly interrupting each other and interweaving
their comments and narratives.
The women talk over each other and do not appear to be listening to each other’s
stories- lack of solidarity and support amongst women and the repressed
truth of each woman’s experience.
The women discuss motherhood, abuse, love and disappointment- similar
coincidences emerge which many of the women.
All of these women’s suffering stem from the crushing violence of a life lived on the
terms of the patriarchy.
Act Two
SCENE 1
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Marlene is back at her job at the Top Girls Employment Agency.
She interviews Jeanine who hopes to be placed in a job that will pay more and offer
more opportunity for advancement.
Reveals to Marlene she is saving money for a wedding.
Marlene reveals that for a woman- success in the workplace is only if you are single.
Discourages Jeanine of sharing her plans with any employers as she will lose her
chances of being hired.
Marlene offers her jobs at advertising firms- Knitwear and lampshades (female
arenas)
Marlene is not willing to act in Jeanine’s best interest.
SCENE 2
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Scene shifts to Joyce’s backyard.
Joyce’s 16-year-old daughter Angie and her 12-year-old friend Kit play in a makeshift
shelter in the backyard.
Angie says she wishes Joyce was dead- unhappy with her life with Joyce
Angie- swears and uses crude language and gestures.
She reveals that she is soon to go to London and visit her aunt Marlene- whom she
believes is her true mother.
Angie and Kit want to go to a movie- Joyce (unable to control Angie) exerts controltelling her to clean her room.
Joyce reveals to Kit that she sees Angie’s future as one with few options except
marriage because of her lack of qualifications
Angie comes wearing a fancy dress which is too small for her- holds a brick
She says she was going to kill her mother with that brick.
Scene 3
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Back at Top Girls Employment Agency.
2 of Marlene’s co-workers- Win and Nell gossip about Marlene’s recent promotion.
Win tells Nell that she hooked up with a married man.
Revealed that Marlene has been promoted over a man named Howard Kidd.
They speak dismissively of Howard Kidd and express their pride in Marlene as an
ambitious woman- looks up to her.
Nell says she slept with 2 different men over the weekend- Derek asked her to marry
him again and she refused.
Churchill questions the amount of choice and control these women had
with their relationships- win regards it as fun but reveals she has not
right to decision making in her relationship.
Marlene arrives late- Nell and Win applaud her for her promotion.
They joke about Howards resentment for Marlene.
Win interviews Louise- competent worker in her 40s who feels unappreciated while
young men are promoted above her.
Louise feels threatened by a new generation of working women.
Win believes that some companies may value Louis’s experience but much more
likely to hire younger men.
Setting changes to main office- Angie arrives to visit Marlene.
Marlene is surprised by Angie’s presence and asks if Angie is visiting for the day.
Angie reveals she has quit school and left her mother to come to London to stay with
Marlene.
Marlene displays some uncertainty about housing Angie, Angie becomes upset and
Marlene overcompensates and tells Angie that she can stay as long as she wants.
Mrs. Kidd then enters the office.
She has come to ask Marlene to forfeit the promotion so that Howard who is deeply
distressed can claim it.
Marlene refuses and Mrs Kidd calls Marlene a ‘ballbreaker’ and leaves.
Nell interviews a young woman names Shona.
It becomes clear that Shona has lied about everything on her resume and has never
held a job in a life.
Win enters the main office and find Angie, and began talking.
Win bores Angie with her long dramatic life story until Angie falls asleep.
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Marlene comes back
Winn tells Marlene, Angie wants a job at the agency.
Marlene says that Angie wont ever be anything more than a bagger at a grocery store.
Marlene tells the other women flatly that Angie is 'not going to make it’.
Act 3
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Takes place in Joyce’s home on a Sunday evening- 3 years earlier (before the dinner
party)
Angie had invited Marlene- Joyce was unaware.
Joyce, Angie and Marlene are in the kitchen and Marlene has brought some presents
for Angie and Joyce.
She gives Marlene a blue dress she wears in Act 2 Scene “and gets perfume for Joyce.
Clear from the beginning that they have many differences and Joyce didn’t want
Marlene to be there at the beginning.
The two sisters were bickering until Angie comes down wearing her dress.
Joyce commands her to take it off so it won’t get dirty- Joyce is frustrated- taking role
as mother.
Kit walks into the room unannounced and asks Angie to come play- Angie refuses.
Joyce comments on Angie and Kit’s friendship saying that Angie takes care of Kit like
a little sister & she’s good with children.
Marlene asks Angie is she wants to work with children- a teacher or a nurse.
Joyce tells her sister that Angie has not thought about her future and is not clever like
Marlene.
Marlene begins to drink.
They talk about the past, earlier life
Marlene asks if she has seen their mother- Joyce says she visits her every Thursday.
Angie recalls Marlene’s last visit- her 9th birthday- with Kit and Angie’s dad and
Joyce.
Marlene asks about Angie’s dad.
Joyce tells her that he had moved about 3 years before.
Marlene says she will be spending the night.
Angie wants Marlene to tuck her into bed and has a secret to show her- shows her
immaturity and acts like a child.
The sisters then began arguing about Marlene leaving their hometown- Joyce sees
this as abandonment.
She expresses her resentment towards Marlene- Marlene grows agitated saying she
had to leave the town.
It is revealed that Angie is in fact Marlene’s biological daughter- not Joyce.
The sisters continue to argue.
Learn that Marlene became pregnant at 17.
Joyce and her husband offered to take the child because they had been married and
had no children of their own.
Joyce also mentions about her miscarriage after taking in Angie saying that Angie
was too stressful hence why she lost the baby.
Marlene reveals she had 2 more abortions since Angie and still doesn’t want a babynew women, career and individual before husband and children.
The conversation takes an emotional turn- Joyce aggressively tells Marlene that it
would be fine for her to wait another 6 years to visit them again.
Marlene cries- she’s not that tough opposed to how she presents herself at the agency.
Joyce apologises telling her sister she loves her.
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They talk about men- Marlene claims she meets a lot of men but cannot handle the
day to day challenges of a relationship.
Talk about politics.
Marlene supports Margaret Thatcher- thinks she is a ‘tough lady’ who is going to
improve the country.
Joyce is surprised that Marlene voted for Thatcher- Marlene replies ‘monetarism is
not stupid’
Sisters begin to discuss their childhood struggles in a WC home.
Marlene says she knew since 13- she wanted to get out of their house and not end up
like their parents.
Joyce is disgusted at Marlene for being selfish while showing envy of her new job and
travels.
Marlene retorts how she hates the WC for being stupid and lazy.
Joyce replies saying she hates posh people.
Both argue about politics and their opposing view- Marlene supports Reagan.
Marlene like Thatcher does not believe in class- doesn’t believe that class is a barrier
to success- thinks anyone who has what it taken should be able to succeed.
Marlene says she cannot help people who are stupid, lazy and frightened.
Joyce says Angie is all those things and asks what would happen to her.
Joyce believes Angie’s future is bleak as long as Thatcher is running England.
The sister’s temporary moment of empathy dissolves into political conflict.
Marlene wants to go to sleep and tries to ask Joyce something.
Joyce won’t hear it and leaves the room
Angie comes into the room and calls out for her mum.
Upon seeing Marlene instead- Angie says ‘frightening’
When Marlene asks the girl if she’s had a bad dream- Angie says ‘frightening’
The play ends.
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