#RandomReads July Discussion

For the final post in July’s Random Reads, I’m going to be chatting about this month’s two Random Reads books in a bit more detail.

Our theme for this month was plays. I’ve read quite a few plays, though I have to say most were for studying reasons rather than pleasure (I studied theatre from GCSEs to my Masters degree). Not that I didn’t enjoy a lot of them, I just think it’s difficult to enjoy something sometimes when you’re being forced to read it!

As usual, Stacie and I picked really different books to read, and this time I did enjoy both of them. I’d read them both before, although Top Girls was such a long time ago I could barely remember it. My pick, The Wonderful World of Dissocia is one I’m really familiar with (as I performed in it a few years ago there were some scenes I read and still knew all the lines to too!)

I loved that both plays talked about issues that are incredibly important and close to my heart. Dissocia deals with mental illness, a topic that still has a lot of stigma surrounding it, which it really shouldn’t in this modern age. Similarly, the feminist issues in Top Girls shouldn’t, but are still an issue today, though things may have taken little baby steps forward since the play was written.

While I enjoyed reading both plays, it was clear to me that they were in that medium for a reason. I think I would have enjoyed both even more if I had watched them on stage, although for different reasons.

In Top Girls, I enjoyed reading it as I was able to take my time and understand all the different stories and conversations that often went on all at the same time. But it was also difficult to read with everyone talking over each other: I kept having to try and remember when someone was interrupting and where the conversation started up again and such. I think those parts would have been easier to understand if they were being spoken by the characters rather than being read by just me.

With Dissocia, I started to think it was as funny as I remembered it, and I think that’s because a lot comes from what the actors bring to the characters. There’s so much scope for development and physical humour, and a lot of the jokes rely on the delivery, which I have to say, isn’t always done right inside my head!

I think it was really good for me to read something this month that wasn’t my usual diet of pure YA!  I look forward to seeing what next month brings us.

See Stacie talk about this month’s #RandomReads over at her blog.

Book Review: Top Girls (Caryl Churchill)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads
#RandomReads

Publisher: Methuen Drama
Pages: 176
Release Date: July 15th 2008
Summary (From Goodreads):
Marlene hosts a dinner party in a London restaurant to celebrate her promotion to managing director of ‘Top Girls’ employment agency. Her guests are five women from the past: Isabella Bird (1831- 1904) – the adventurous traveller; Lady Nijo (b1258) – the mediaeval courtesan who became a Buddhist nun and travelled on foot through Japan; Dull Gret, who as Dulle Griet in a Bruegel painting, led a crowd of women on a charge through hell; Pope Joan – the transvestite early female pope and last but not least Patient Griselda, an obedient wife out of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As the evening continues we are involved with the stories of all five women and the impending crisis in Marlene’s own life. A classic of contemporary theatre, Churchill’s play is seen as a landmark for a new generation of playwrights. It was premiered by the Royal Court in 1982.

 

Review:


Top Girls is a play that I have read previously (of course, being a drama student) but not for many years, so I was excited when Stacie picked it as her #RandomReads choice. I couldn’t really remember what I thought about it. I do sometimes find Caryl Churchill plays go a little over my head, a lot probably to do with the fact some are quite topical to eras that I know little about. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them though, and Vinegar Tom has always been a favourite of mine.This is a tricky one to review because I didn’t find it provoked feelings in me such as liking it, or disliking it, rather, it just made me think. While I read it, I didn’t really think too much of it: I wasn’t exactly bored, but I wasn’t really enjoying it either. But afterwards it stuck with me and I kept returning to it for days afterwards.I think I would have enjoyed watching this play more than reading it. There’s a lot of overlap in the conversations: while this may be truthful to real life, it sometimes made it confusing to read. I imagine it would work better in practice than me trying to do it in my head…

For me, Top Girls captured a lot of what it is to be a woman. In the first scene, all these famous women from history tell stories of their escapades. Some of it is comedic, some incredible and some upsetting. We see a lot of how men try to (and often do) control women in some horrendous stories. In others, women need to imitate men just to be taken seriously. Their children are used as weapons against them.

It’s difficult to pin down the underlying feeling of the play. It could be seen as depressing, how these women are made to suffer in ways men are not. While some is historical, we all know that feminism is an issue and equality is not here yet. It could be seen as hopeful, the way these women do incredible things despite all the odds that are stacked against them.

After reading this, I would really love to watch the play on stage and see how that compares to reading it.

My Verdict:
 
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