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What Caryl Churchill play should I read first?

Alex Kulak2
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I've wanted to get into her work for a while, but every play of hers that I've skimmed looks really dense. What would be her most accessible play to read first?

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Synecdoche2
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Start with Top Girls and Cloud Nine. Then run wild. Escaped Alone is my favorite of hers, though.

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Scarywarhol
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Cloud Nine. 

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oh-bwayhereicome
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Yea, Top Girls is her best work in my opinion. Cloud Nine is a good follow-up. If you want to get into her weirder stuff check out The Skriker, one of my personl favs.

Updated On: 10/8/18 at 03:25 PM
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sinister teashop
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Top Girls is a good suggestion. Churchill's plays are written as theater texts and less as literature. I find them hard to grasp if they're not performed. She's one of the few playwrights I'd actually recommend reading a book about rather than reading her texts. Her wikipedia entry sucks.

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Updated On: 10/8/18 at 03:53 PM
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GavestonPS
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Caryl Churchill is so prolific, few have read all her plays (except for Tony Kushner and Oskar Eustis). She is extremely smart, but I'm surprised to hear her described as "dense". None of her plays that I know is very long.

I've taught TOP GIRLS, CLOUD NINE, MAD FOREST and FEN.

FEN is nearly impossible if one doesn't already know the dialect of the characters. Maybe it's easier to read than hear, but I doubt it.

MAD FOREST was extremely timely in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but may not mean a lot to those who don't remember the period. I'm not saying the play is no longer relevant. In fact, it may be more so if one looks at the conversion of leftwing autocrats into rightwing dictators (i.e., Putin). I'm just asking, "How much does the OP know about Romania?"

The first act of TOP GIRLS plays beautifully but is very hard to read because of the overlapping dialogue. If you can get through that, the rest of the play is relatively straightforward. Do keep in mind that the play was written in an era when "feminism" was very much in a process of reevaluation. You know, just like today.

I'd start with CLOUD NINE. It's her one play that may make more sense on the page than performed live. (I think she takes a lot for granted in terms of an audience realizing that the characters of Act I are the same people in Act II. I know I didn't understand it until very late in the evening the first time I saw the play, knowing nothing about it.)

But the first act is probably the funniest act of theater since Joe Orton. (Be prepared that Act II--which is the actual point of the evening--is much more serious in tone.) I think it's always easier to tackle intellectual material when it's served with a hearty sauce of belly laughs.

ETA I believe the email I got from the National Theatre mentions a revival of TOP GIRLS. Perhaps a film of the production will be shown in the NT series this season. If so, that would be the perfect intro to Churchill, I expect.

Updated On: 10/8/18 at 10:03 PM
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Sally Durant Plummer
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Caryl Churchill is one of the greatest Playwrights of our time - certainly the greatest living British playwright.

Top Girls and Cloud 9 are the perfect introduction to her. They start off with her more straightforward style, with her brilliant use of structure allowing the audience to understand the piece. Her use of casting in Cloud 9 and time in Top Girls make the plays brilliant on the page and in stage. Top Girls will be an event at the National next year - in no small reason that this will be the first major production to be directed by a woman.

Her later work is much more minimal - she pares away at theatrical conventions and gets to the heart of things. Far Away is one of the best pieces I have read but exceedingly difficult to get right on stage without a director who can handle the complexities of Churchill’s language. I personally adore her work and find it is always a good use of time to read or re-read her writing. She is, in a word, brilliant.
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ScottyDoesn'tKnow2
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There's a great BBC production of Top Girls starring Lesley Manville on a famous video sharing website you can find as well.