Performed by SUDs last week ‘Cloud Nine’ by Caryl Churchill explores gender issues, hypocrisy and human absurdity, and by and large was an excellent and enjoyable performance.
The first act is set in colonial Africa with severely oppressed females and dominating males, and an accentuation of the divide between black and white (which is creatively subverted with the black servant played by a white actor). The oppressed characters rupture ‘proper’ English social conventions of their time with surprising and daring sex talk and sexual raucousness gripping the audience. Whilst there were a few hesitant moments and line slip ups, it was barely noticed in the frenzied exuberance of the play.
The transition of acts is equated with the audience’s transition of buildings; the audience themselves are taken on a literal journey, likewise with the colonial characters. Upon entering the new location, we stand as the characters rip off their colonial attire and transform themselves into 20th century inhabitants. Suddenly all the oppression of their former historical position is let out as characters scream and rampantly act out sex and violence to a backdrop of Margaret Thatcher and of course, the Sex Pistols.
In the second act set in London, 1979, the audience are separated, some seating, and some standing behind barriers giving it a truly atmospheric feeling. The complete outright sexuality of the first act is developed and openly expressed, particularly the gay tendencies of some.
The play accentuates the absurdities of human nature and the bestial instinct of desire verses social standards and ‘properness’ which is gradually completely demolished in the second half; issues which are still very much at large today.
By the end of the night I couldn’t help but feel utmost admiration for the exquisite multi-role playing of some and the complex doubling up of characters, particularly those boys playing girls, and girls playing boys with what seems like total ease. Overall, a very enjoyable night!