Cloud Nine is an assault on hypocrisy. Caryl Churchill wanted to show ‘the parallel between colonial and sexual oppression’. By this, she meant that it is the same mentality of the colonial power-reflecting male values that also results in the oppression of women.
Set in colonial Africa and late 20th century Britain, the play explores relationships between women and men, men and men and women and women. It is about sex, work, family, power, politics, money, colonialism and Queen Victoria.
Act One reveals and satirizes the dynamics of colonial family life in Africa and underneath the rigidity of the Victorian family, we see several unorthodox relationships developing between the characters. The play draws attention to society’s rigid expectations and stereotypes as the characters struggle to fit their assigned roles in Victorian Africa, with deliberate use of cross-gendering roles.
By the second act, set in 1979 London, the characters begin to discover themselves. It’s a time of sexual revolution and expression. Society is changing. Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister, feminism and gay rights surge in popularity.
In the first act, even though adultery and homosexuality are rampant, everyone involved is afraid of being caught, whereas in Act Two, both these practices are out in the open and discussed actively and at length. The ‘minorities’ of Act One dominate and are able to be who they want to be. Despite the 100 year difference, the content of the acts draw on similar ideas about sexual expression and British hypocrisy.
One message we hope to bring across is that we can never forget how things used to be. Although the characters of the second act are seemingly free to be who they want, we wish to maintain ideas about social conformity and ultimately highlight the irony of this period and the underlying conflicts that emerged between two polar sections of society.
Cloud Nine will be an unforgettable juxtaposition of satire, farce, high and low comedy and uncompromising prose that is as funny as it is disturbing.
Cloud Nine runs 3rd-5th December in the Debating Chamber. Tickets on sale in advance from Falmer House or on the door for £5/£4 (SUDS members), and are a pound less on Wednesday.