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The Royal Court Theatre in London is known for putting on plays which present exciting modern drama. In 1982 Top Girls was first performed, receiving excellent reviews for being an entertaining as well as a challenging play. Playwrights with political agendas were beginning to write more around this time.
Set at the time it was written, the early 1980's, Top Girls is mainly concerned with two political agendas: feminism and socialism. It may seem surprising to us today that just over thirty years ago the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act came into legal existence. The 1960's and 1970's were an important time for the development of women's rights. Various laws reformed the working and personal lives of women. Contraception became available on the NHS in 1974, and the 1967 Abortion Act had made access to abortion easier. The Equal Pay Act (1970) and the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act brought opportunities for equalities in the workplace and the world of education and the media. These play important roles in the lives of the modern characters of Top Girls.
Caryl Churchill was born in England but lived in Montreal for a period, and upon her return resented the capitalist class system in place in England. Her desire was also for gender equality. Top Girls contains only female characters, but the play focuses upon social and male influences upon them. The play covers the period between 854 and 1982, and explores the notion of inequality throughout the lives of many different societies and cultures, of which gender plays a large role. Churchill also critiques the role of the modern woman and the values of modern society, using echoes of the ideology of the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher to highlight inequalities.
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