Cloud 9 is a two-act play written by British playwright Caryl Churchill. This time-shifting comedy by the author of Top Girls created a sensation with its world premiere in London in 1979 and its Off Broadway premiere in 1981. The New York Times calls Caryl Churchill "one of the wisest and bravest playwrights on the planet."
The searing comedy is a parody and spoof of the Victorian Empire and its rigid attitudes, especially toward sex. There is Clive, a British functionary; his wife Betty (played by a man); their daughter Victoria (a rag doll); Clive’s friend Harry, an explorer; Mrs. Saunders, who runs about dressed in a riding habit; Clive’s son Edward, who still plays with dolls and is played by a woman; and Joshua, a native servant who knows exactly what is really going on. What really is going on is a marvelous send-up and a non-stop round-robin of sexual liaisons. All this time the natives are restless in the background. The second act shifts to London in 1980. Except for the surviving characters, it is only twenty-five years later, and all those repressed sexual longings have evaporated, along with the Empire.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
About Caryl Churchill's Brechtian "Alienation" Techniques
In the essay, As You Can See: Brecht, Butler, and the Body in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine, Hannah Hammel writes:
“Cloud Nine is a play in which the actors are not always meant to traditionally match the gender or race of the character they portray. Further, the actors do not play one character throughout the entire show but, rather, switch roles between Acts I and II. This nontraditional casting establishes an immediate contrast between the perceived identities of the characters as set out in the dialogue and their embodiment on the stage. The mismatching of (traditional) body and performance of the characters is a tactic of alienation, a technique defined by Bertolt Brecht, which forces the audience to question enacted societal norms as it sees them represented on the stage. By extension, this is meant to make the audience question the norms that they accept and expect in their daily lives. The theater, for Brecht, is not only a means of telling stories, but a means of showing the audience the momentary and flexible nature of all concepts through which we ground our society. In Cloud Nine, Brechtian alienation is used to reaffirm the fluidity of normative roles throughout history and in contemporary society, and also to present a critique of the theater arts themselves.”
To read the full essay, please click here.
Also, see out TSP Unplugged Reading of OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD
We are also presenting a free reading of Timberlake Wertenbaker's fast-moving farce, OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, on July 10, 2017 (7pm.) Wertenbaker's work has been said to draw influence directly from Caryl Churchill, and we couldn't be more excited to pair these plays together for our audience.
Here's is an excerpt from Frank Rich's 1991 review of the Broadway production of OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, discussing Churchill's influence on Wertenbaker's work:
"By far the most positive Royal Court influence on Ms. Wertenbaker is that of Caryl Churchill, whose imprint can be seen when the actresses playing convicts in "Our Country's Good" double in the roles of English officers. The cross-sexual casting not only echoes a Churchill comedy about colonialism ("Cloud 9") and, for added dividends, the farcical plot of "The Recruiting Officer" itself, but it also honors Ms. Wertenbaker's point about the subversive power of theater to liberate an audience from all shackles of reality, including divisions of sex and class."
To reserve a seat for OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, click here.
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CAST and CREATIVE TEAM:
1st Row: Erin Cronican* (Edward/Lin), Jane Kahler* (Ellen/Mrs Saunders/Betty), Bill McAndrews (Joshua/Martin), 2nd Row: Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia (Maud/Victoria), Robin Friend Stift (Harry/Edward), Ari Veach (Betty/Gerry), Brandon Walker* (Clive/Cathy). Stand-by for Joshua/Martin: Michael Clay.
* = member of Actors' Equity Association
Directed by Brandon Walker. Co-Direction by Erin Cronican.
Lighting Design by Duane Pagano. Sound Design by Brandon Walker. Set/Costume Design by Erin Cronican.
Assistant Direction by Candice Oden. Movement Assistance by Robin Friend Stift.
Dialect Coaching: Jane Kahler.
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Production Photos - Click for Slideshow
(Photos by Russ Rowland. Click here or on the photo above for comprehensive photo gallery.)
Feature Articles and Essays about CLOUD 9:
Cast Feature: Feminist writer Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine revived
Essay: As You Can See: Brecht, Butler, and the Body in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine
Reviews for CLOUD 9:
"One of the great plays is being produced at The Seeing Place Theater: Cloud 9, a play of such density and dynamism, a play of such warmth and bitter intelligence, a play of such sobering and poignant import…The Seeing Place Theater ensemble, a company I intend to keep my eye on, does this masterwork more than justice in a very fine production co-directed by Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican. Like a veteran trainer, they take this beast of a play, bursting with energy and opportunity, and produce an intelligible and pointed and very enjoyable production." - Aron Carter, Stage Buddy
"An edgy, seat-of-the-pants production by the always-risk-taking Seeing Place Theater...the cast embraces its barely tamed wildness with all the gusto they can muster, giving the whole an exhilarating improvisational vibe." - Howard Miller, Upstage Downstage
"The Seeing Place Theatre is getting very well known for their strong ensemble and bold production choices. This very challenging play unfolds moment by moment due to the company’s skillful approach. They have a sharp focus on the value of the message in Ms. Churchill’s writing, and make is accessible and relevant to a diverse present day audience. There are very impressive performances by Jane Kahler, Erin Cronican, Brandon Walker, Bill McAndrews, Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia, Robin Friend Stift, and Ari Veach." - Domenick Danza, More Then The Play
"If you liked last season's Sense and Sensibility you'll love The Seeing Place Theater's production of Cloud 9...The ensemble's acting was terrific all around...everyone was magical." - Arthur Wooten, The Dizzy Traveler
"The biggest standout among the ensemble is Jane Kahler, playing the lusty Mrs. Saunders and the sweetly loyal Ellen in act one, then the particularly touching and out of step older Betty in act two. Erin Cronican is also notable as the constantly fidgeting young Edward and the appealingly earthy Lin. Brandon Walker's Clive has a somewhat metatheatrical air to him, as a ringleader trying desperately to wrangle his circus animals and keep the story spiraling forward. Throughout the whole ensemble is a yearning sense toward connection, coupled with the conviction that true connection may not be possible." - Zelda Knapp, A Work Unfinishing
"4 out of 5 stars - Count this experiment a success...if you're up for the challenge of seeing live theater in a decidedly different light, check out Cloud 9 before it closes on July 16th. " - Andrew Andrews, Opplaud
"Under the co-direction of Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican, the company’s enthusiastic production at Tribeca’s Access Theater is at times giddy in its playfulness...The Seeing Place meets the challenges Churchill lays out by emphasizing the at times blinding absurdity of power and oppression." - Patrick Maley, Exeunt Magazine
"At 380 Broadway in Downtown Manhattan, a group of actors put up this fine production of the old British play by Caryl Churchill, “Cloud 9.” On a set with the British flag, both stories will develop as funny as ever, one in 1880 and one in 1980...This is a very good production that I recommend especially for a younger generation who wants to get used to what is probably the best play of Ms. Churchill. " - Lucas Eller, Viva Lifestyles
"For me, the most exciting kind of theater is when, after the event, you sit back & marvel at how a small group of people, working together, has been able to conjure up so much meaning with such modest means. That was my experience this past Sunday at the Access Theater on lower Broadway when I saw the downtown NYC troupe The Seeing Place Theater put on a sharp, fast, funny, touching, politically astute & often thrilling production of Caryl Churchill’s master work “Cloud 9.” I don’t have time for a full review here: my purpose is to get the word out right away as there are only 7 more performances from tonight through Sunday. At $15 a ticket, it is likely the best theater bargain in town right now! Sometimes you have to go away – to another century, or another continent – to see more clearly the mess you’re in – the mess we in this country are in right now. This production of Cloud 9 helped me do that –& not feel too very depressed about it, but exhilarated at the human possibilities (though, admittedly, at the edge of some kind of precipice). Thanks to the uniformly strong cast & creative team of The Seeing Place Theater!" - Jim Eigo, Facebook
"Cloud 9 is another in a long line of very meaningful, unusual, quirky plays I've experienced at TSPT that deviate from the mainstream and transport us into a world where reality and surrealism coexist. TSPT successfully tackles plays that might be too long or involved for others. The payoff is that after a lengthy evening you still come away enervated and stimulated--involved in the action and interaction right up until the curtain." - Jeff Gaster, Facebook
"Cloud 9 was a terrific production all around. Had never seen the play before and so happy I got to see this cast and crew put it on. Still relevant even nearly forty years later." - John Yarbrough, Facebook
"Absorbing, Clever, Great Acting, Intelligent, Profound...See it if you love the brilliant writing of Caryl Churchill. This intimate production of one of her early works is masterfully performed. I have seen Churchill plays on Broadway, at The Public, and in London. This is every bit their equal." - Kathy Carlisle, Show-Score
"Ambitious, Clever, Great Acting, Intelligent, Entertaining...See it if you like the immediacy of Off Off B'way with a solid acting and passion. Don't see it if you want the same ole Broadway thing." - Member 71905345, Show-Score
"Fascinating. Very interesting style. Great performances by some up and coming actors. Excellent, very natural dialogue. Fast pace. " - Gwyn, Show-Score
"Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Great Writing, Entertaining...See it if you like Caryl Churchill's plays, they are brilliant feminist statements, bold and clear, portraying the inequities within our society." - Sheree 6341, Show-Score
"Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-Provoking, Relevant... See it if you like non-traditional theater that explores how people cope with power, sexuality, gender, patriarchy, class and parenting." - Bruce 6302, Show-Score
"Edgy, Great Acting, Profound, Relevant, Hilarious. See it if you enjoy satirical farces." - JK, Show-Score
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