Beetroot Drama

Pink. Good in the garden. Stereotyping in girls.

Friday night at the National Theatre to see the female written, directed and acted Top Girls. Sunday lunch successfully introducing the joys of roast beetroot to my cousin’s 4 year old daughter.

The daughter – let’s call her Cerise – adores everything pink. Not her parents choosing but a tidal wave of cultural influences that are already working at a conscious and subconscious level to define her as ‘girl’.

The play written and set in 1982 Thatcherite Britain explores, I think, how society then typecast women and how some fought against the patriarchal influences at that time. It’s weird – the opening act set in a restaurant imagining a dinner involving historically strong women has them talking over each other, making often confusing and contradictory statements and in the case of Pope Joan ranting in Latin before vomiting copiously behind a banquette. As you did in smart restaurants in the years of excess at the beginning of the 80s.

Cerise had one previous experience of beetroot; a slice of the over vinegared shite that despoiled many a childhood salad. She, like her older brother channelled her spitting image as her face began just so much crumpled latex. There was no way she would try that.

The play went from the so surreal I wondered if I’d come back after the interval to the dreary humdrum of two surly teens trying to out boast each other. In so far it took the plot forward it was only to tread it in sticky dog crap. All a bit unnecessary.

‘Look at my Tongue. It’s gone pink.’ Cerise’s interest is now piqued. ‘Can you do your lips?’

Act three took place in the imaginary recruitment agency where the heroine worked her way up the corporate ladder by being as hard as a stereotypical corporate man. There were little vignettes here, representations of woman held back in careers by societal expectations, men, lack of educational opportunities and, er did I mention men? I suspect for 1982 it seemed powerful, messagy, eviscerating. It took Thatcherism in the raw and held it up to the sun. It all seemed so terribly dated, rather than historically fascinating.

‘Can you do my lips?’ It wasn’t much of a stretch for Cerise to eat the beetroot and enjoy it, asking for more. We even blagged in some kale because it had soaked in beetroot juice. Her brother remained steadfast in his opposition to vegetables as symbols of oppression.

The last act where we learn of the link between the go getter, her apparently down trodden sister a victim of the system and her niece, one of the tens of act two. It is the best bit, acted well and opening up some of the political contradictions of the feminist tropes circa 1982. Just a shame there wasn’t more of it.

Like the beetroot it ran out too soon.

The thing about Top Girls, I think, if you ignore act one which, frankly is all very well as a set text at school but is pretty much a waste of space in the theatre, is so many of the problems that are identified – the failure to properly deal with how we support working women, the need for women to compete, at some level, as if they were men, the whole undermining of women by so many small prejudices that support men – are there today but we deal with them as if they should be history and the fact they are not is a cause for frustration as much as anger. It think it drags, especially in the agency scene, is because it feels like a lecture on the ways of subtle oppression when, today that’s well known and we want something more than the key stage two syllabus on the role of women in work. This is the ‘What’ – Look, it says, this is what needs changing. We know that. What we want today is the ‘How’ – how are we going to get this right now and in the future.

So it is with vegetables. Breaking through a four year’s resistance to root vegetables is meritorious but what should be concerning us here is the how. There must be a better way than by pandering to a culturally appropriated colour

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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14 Responses to Beetroot Drama

  1. Nicely done. Are there any blue veg?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha, very clever, Geoff. Yes, sounds like a dated production–the play. Well done on the beetroot. It makes me feel like I’ve done something right (tho I’m sure I haven’t) that one of my boys loves purple, his longtime favorite color. No one can dissuade him. He knows it’s the color of royalty, and tho it also happens to be the fave color of many third grade girls, he doesn’t care. Small wins in parenthood!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. map195 says:

    well done

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sis you know that in the 18thC boys were typically dressed in pink? The colours got swapped somewhere and no-one noticed. The play sounds dreadful. The thing I’ve been musing on of late is the women who have to adopt male personas to be successful in corporate/political careers. Thatcher is a good case in point – but all the women here were men in frocks too – until Jacinda. We need to honour the strengths of women – those things that are secretly sneered apon by corporate society. the ability to empathise, feel, embrace, hold the big picture, seek social health and wellbeing etc etc. Ooops sorry, didn’t see that soapbox there………


  5. Combining a theatre review with controversy over root vegetables! Now that must be a first.


  6. Always suspected that play would be like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Great intertwining of the play and the lunch. I treasure a photo of my grandfather at four with long curls and a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit. I guess “gender fluid” in 1895.

    Liked by 1 person

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