AS chance would have it, in quick succession come Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Old Bomb Theatre Company’s revival of Jim Cartwright’s 1989 state-of-Britain play Bed and Out Of Joint’s re-evaluation of Caryl Churchill’s Margaret Thatcher-inspired Top Girls.

Bed chimes with our times when our sense of what it means to be British has become the subject of ever greater debate (BBC1’s Question Time was mulling it over in Dewsbury on Thursday night), but Churchill’s 1982 piece of agit-prop, from Mrs Thatcher’s first term of radical government, feels as dated as padded shoulders and The Goombay Dance Band.

In the era when Mrs T deepened her voice and became Top Girl as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Churchill took up her feminist pen at the Royal Court to write a ball-breaking diatribe totally devoid of men, although the spectre of misogynist intolerance casts a very dark shadow.

Top Girls opens with its celebrated dinner scene, where Thatcher-championing career girl Marlene (Caroline Catz) is toasting her promotion at the Top Girls employment agency (a rise gained at the expense of a nice, decent, middle-aged family man). Her guests are scratch-your-head female figures from history (Pope Joan, Izabella Bird, Lady Nijo), united by being, firstly, victims, and secondly, not well known, because history invariably has been written as his story.

Characters talk over each other, as people do at the dinner table, and no doubt all this overlapping seemed rather daring and clever theatre in 1982 but now it is just as irritating as when someone does actually march all over your words.

Playing it as Churchill wrote it – and you have to play it that way – only enhances the feeling that you are watching a period piece in Max Stafford-Clark’s authentic-spirited but overcooked and exasperating production.

We never see these bygone women again – “Typical”, they might well have said! – and instead Churchill veers madly from London restaurant to Joyce’s back yard – Joyce (Kirsten Hazel Smith), it later emerges, being the sister that stayed behind in the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire/Whatever accent is that? countryside when Marlene went upwardly mobile and lost her roots.

Accents continue to be all over the place when Act Two moves on to the Top Girls agency for what should be its best scene. Alix Dunmore’s Win is recognisably Aussie but Helen Bradbury undermines Nell with a wayward approximation of Geordie. Churchill’s feisty characters now come across as clichéd, all the more so for being over-played.

Marlene turns out to be thoroughly miserable, rather like a night watching this prune of a play from a time that we are so grateful to have left behind.

Top Girls, Out Of Joint/Chichester Festival Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until March 10. Box office: 0113 213 7700