Reading between the Lines: Use of Space and Body Language in Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls'

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The question of how body-language and space are used in Caryl Churchill's `Top Girls' is interesting. A traditional view exists that a play is dictated by the text to the extent that the actors ought not to deviate from a pure reading. This theory emphasises authorial control and allows performers little opportunity to interpret the text for the audience. A competing view is that a play is a complete entity only when performed, aiming for a collaboration between playwright, director, performers, and audience. Churchill is often thought to take this collaborative approach to her plays, leaving a great deal of space for actors to interpret her text for their audience. This represents a partial abdication of authorial control. It is a…show more content…
The scarcity of substantial roles for actresses has long been a problem in theatre. Churchill radically alters the balance in `Top Girls' by having only women on the stage. Churchill also uses the method of doubling. This is where the same actress plays several parts. This allows for thematic links to be made between roles and asks the audience to consider the implications of role-playing in society as well as on the stage. It also allows the actresses to play radically different characters in the same play, demonstrating their range as performers. In writing substantial roles for actresses, Churchill is inviting them to make these parts memorable for the audience. The agenda of socialist feminism transforms these roles into a showcase for female performance. Thus performance in this play may be considered as important as the text. This represents a collaborative approach. The audience interpret meaning as much from the performance as from the language written by the playwright. The performance can be examined by breaking it down into the non-verbal methods used to convey meaning. The audience will immediately make assumptions about a character based on the way the performer is dressed. When the actress speaks, the audience will not only take meaning from the words but also from accent and tone. Body-language will convey a great deal of meaning to the audience. The audience will interpret eye contact,

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