Alienation Effect in Top Girls by Caryl Churchill

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  • Topic: Caryl Churchill, Epic theatre, Top Girls
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  • Published : March 5, 2013
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Aleksandra Szymczyk

Alienation Effect in Top Girls by Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchil’s play Top Girls presents a socially challenging commentary. She uses a variety of theatrical techniques to convey her message. Influences of Brechtian Epic Theatre can be seen explicitly in her employment of the technique called the alienation effect.

Brecht’s alienation effects, in contrast to suspension of disbelief associated with realistic plays, tries to destroy the possibility of escapism and aims to put audience in a situation when they can reflect critically in a factual context. It does not make an attempt to portray life as it is, rather strives to make the familiar strange in order to emotionally detach the viewer from the characters and give them a basis for social or political reflection. Caryl Churchill’s use of this technique can be particularly seen in the first scene of the play.

Set of the first scene is minimalist, rather suggesting than showing the location, however characters costumes are a very important feature. They help to indicate character’s status and profession. Characters are wearing full costumes, not only just props, which clearly suggest the importance of this feature in portraying the character and can give the reader an idea who is he dealing with.

The costumes’ role is even of a greater importance as it is a tool of contrasting the characters. Contrast is very significant in the scene, especially when it is taken into account that most characters are historical. Furthermore, some of them are actually fictional characters and the ones who actually existed come from various, distant periods in the history and completely different places in the world. This can be perceived by the viewer from the very beginning and does not give the possibility to even temporary accept the events or characters, who are often long dead or never lived, as believable. Therefore, from the opening scene the author or reader is invited to view the play...
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