Cloud Nine (play)

Cloud Nine

Revised American edition, Methuen, 1984
Written by Caryl Churchill
Date premiered 14 February 1979 (1979-02-14)
Place premiered Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon
Original language English
Subject Colonialism, gender
Setting Act 1: A British colony in Victorian Africa
Act 2: London in 1979

Cloud Nine is a two-act play written by British playwright Caryl Churchill after workshops with the Joint Stock Theatre Company in late 1978 and first performed at Dartington College of Arts, Devon, on 14 February 1979[1].

The two acts of the play form a contrapuntal structure. Act 1 is set in British colonial Africa in Victorian times, and Act 2 is set in a London park in 1979. However, between the acts only twenty-five years pass for the characters. Each actor plays one role in Act 1 and a different role in Act 2 - the characters who appear in both acts are played by different actors in the first and second. Act 1 parodies the conventional comedy genre and satirizes Victorian society and colonialism. Act 2 shows what could happen when the restrictions of both the genre of comedy and Victorian ideology are loosened in the more permissive 1970s.

The play uses controversial portrayals of sexuality and obscene language and establishes a parallel between colonial and sexual oppression[2]. Its humour depends on incongruity and the carnivalesque, and helps to convey Churchill's political message about accepting people who are different and not dominating them or forcing them into particular social roles.

Contents

Characters

Act 1

  • Clive, a colonial administrator
  • Betty, his wife, played by a man
  • Joshua, his black servant, played by a white
  • Edward, his son, played by a woman
  • Victoria, his daughter, a dummy
  • Maud, his mother-in-law
  • Ellen, Edward's governess
  • Harry Bagley, an explorer
  • Mrs. Saunders, a widow

Act 2

  • Betty, now played by a woman (normally the same actress who plays Edward)
  • Edward, her son, now played by a man (normally the same actor who plays Betty)
  • Victoria, her daughter (normally played by the same actress who plays Maud)
  • Martin, Victoria's husband (normally played by the same actor who plays Harry)
  • Lin, a lesbian single mother (normally played by the same actress who plays Ellen/Mrs. Saunders)
  • Cathy, Lin's daughter age 5, played by a man (normally the same actor who plays Clive)
  • Gerry, Edward's lover (normally played by the same actor who plays Joshua)

Synopsis

Act I

Clive, a British colonial administrator, lives with his family, a governess and servant during turbulent times in Africa. The natives are rioting and Mrs Saunders, a widow, comes to them to seek safety. Her arrival is soon followed by Harry Bagley, an explorer. Clive makes passionate advances to Mrs Saunders, his wife Betty fancies Harry, who has sex with the servant Joshua and Clive's son Edward. The governess Ellen, who reveals herself to be a lesbian, is forced into marriage with Harry. Act 1 ends with the wedding celebrations; the final scene is Clive giving a speech while Joshua is pointing a gun at him.

Act II

Although Act 2 is set in 1979, some of the characters of Act 1 are reappearing – for them only 25 years have passed. Betty has left Clive, her daughter Victoria is now married to Martin, and Edward has an openly gay relationship with Gerry. Victoria leaves Martin and starts a lesbian relationship with Lin. When Gerry leaves Edward, Edward moves in with his sister and Lin. The three of them have a drunken ceremony in which they call up the Goddess, and after that characters from Act 1 begin appearing in Act 2. Act 2 has a looser structure than Act 1, and Churchill played around with the ordering of the scenes.[2]

Interpretations and observations

Act I

Act 1 of Cloud Nine invites the audience to engage with Britain's colonial past, but does so by challenging 'the preconceived notions held by the audience in terms of gender and sexuality'[3]. Churchill deliberately subverts gender and racial stereotypes, using cross-gender and cross-racial casting: Betty is played by a man in act 1, but by a woman in act 2, Joshua is played by a white and Edward is played by a woman in act 1 and by a man in act 2. Churchill deliberately uses the notion of cross gender, racial and age casting to unsettle the expectations of her audience. In the introduction of the play, Churchill explains why for example Betty is played by a man in the first act: "she wants to be what men want her to be ... Betty does not value herself as a woman." Michael Patterson confirms this when he writes that "Betty is played by a man in order to show how femininity is an artificial and imposed construct"[4]. James Harding suggests that by cross-casting Betty and Edward in Act 1, Churchill is actually playing it safe: making what are same-sex relationships into ones that are visibly heterosexual and normative.[5]

The black servant, Joshua, is played by a white man for similar reasons. He says, "My skin is black, but o, my soul is white. I hate my tribe. My master is my light"; Amelia Howe Kritzer argues that he is played by a white man because "the reversal exposes the rupture in Joshua's identity caused by his internalization of colonial values"[6]. Joshua does not identify with his "own" people; in act 1, scene three Mrs. Saunders asks if he doesn't mind beating his own people. Joshua replies that they are not his people, and refers to them as being bad.

Act II

The second act is set in London 1979, but for the characters only twenty-five years have passed. Churchill explains her reason for this in the introduction: "The first act, like the society it shows, is male dominated and firmly structured. In the second act, more energy comes from the women and the gays." In Act 2, the British colonial oppression is also present, this time in the form of the post-colonial presence in Northern Ireland. Although the different societies in the two acts are quite different, they share the notion of colonial oppression. Michael Patterson writes that "the actors ... established a 'parallel between colonial and sexual oppression,' showing how the British occupation of Africa in the nineteenth century and its post-colonial presence in Northern Ireland relate to the patriarchal values of society"[7] Churchill shows the audience different views of oppression, both colonial and sexual. She amplifies social constructs by linking the two periods, using an unnatural time gap. Amelia Howe Kritzer argues that "Churchill remained close to the Brechtian spirit of encouraging the audience to actively criticize institutions and ideologies they have previously taken for granted".[6]

There is a lot of difference between the two acts: Act 2 contains a lot more sexual freedom for women whereas in Act 1 the men dictate the relationships. Act 2 "focuses on changes in the structure of power and authority, as they affect sex and relationships" a male-dominated structure defined in the first act. Churchill writes that she "explored Genet's idea that colonial oppression and sexual oppression are similar."[6] She essentially uses the play as a social arena to explore "the Victorian origins of contemporary gender definitions and sexual attitudes, recent changes ... and some implications of these changes."[6]

References

  1. ^ Caryl Churchill, Plays: One (London: Methuen London, 1985)
  2. ^ a b Michael Patterson, The Oxford Guide to Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  3. ^ Shanon Baisden, 'How Feminist Theatre Became "Queer": A Look into Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine' (2004), p. 1
  4. ^ Michael Patterson, The Oxford Guide to Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 84
  5. ^ James M. Harding, "Cloud Cover: (Re)Dressing Desire and Comfortable Subversions in Caryl Churchhill's Cloud Nine" PMLA 113.2 (1998): 258-72.
  6. ^ a b c d Amelia Howe Kritzer, The Plays of Caryl Churchill (London, The MacMillan Press, 1991), pp 111-13, 122
  7. ^ Michael Patterson, The Oxford Guide to Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 84.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cloud Nine — or on cloud nine is an English expression meaning euphoria or bliss . It may also refer to: Contents 1 In companies 2 In confectionery 3 …   Wikipedia

  • cloud nine — by 1950, sometimes also cloud seven (1956, perhaps by confusion with seventh heaven), Amer.Eng., of uncertain origin or significance. Some connect the phrase with the 1895 International Cloud Atlas (Hildebrandsson, Riggenbach and Teisserenc de… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Cloud Nine (online game) — CloudNine Developer(s) Mgame Publisher(s) Mgame, Netgame Version US Closed Beta (27th of September 2009) Platform(s) …   Wikipedia

  • Code Red Cloud Nine — Studio album by Richard Bennett Released 2008 Genre …   Wikipedia

  • Cloud 9 (album) — For the George Harrison album see Cloud Nine (George Harrison album) Cloud 9 Studio album by Nine Rele …   Wikipedia

  • Cloud (disambiguation) — A cloud is a visible mass of condensed droplets or frozen crystals suspended in the air. Cloud(s) may also refer to: Contents 1 Fiction 2 Literature 3 …   Wikipedia

  • Play It Again, Charlie Brown — Infobox Television show name = Play It Again, Charlie Brown caption = Title card from Play It Again, Charlie Brown show name 2 = genre = Animated TV Special creator = Charles M. Schulz director = Bill Meléndez creative director = developer =… …   Wikipedia

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play — The Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play was first awarded at the 1974 1975 Drama Desk Awards and has been awarded every year since. Before the 21st Drama Desk Awards, acting awards were given without making distinctions… …   Wikipedia

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play — The Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play is presented by the Drama Desk, a committee of New York City theatre critics, writers, and editors. It honors performances by actors in supporting roles in productions staged on… …   Wikipedia

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play — The Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play was first awarded at the 1974–1975 Drama Desk Awards and has been awarded every year since. Before the 21st Drama Desk Awards, directing awards were given without making distinctions between …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.