Cloud 9 PosterBy Caryl Churchill

Directed by: Joel Greenberg

Performances: March 19-22, 1997

Venue: Theatre of the Arts, Modern                Languages Building

                         

The British playwright Caryl Churchill, born in London in 1938, had been writing plays, radio and television dramas for almost twenty years before she gained her first international success with Cloud 9, a play that has quite an interesting origin.  It came into being in 1978-1979 during a workshop at Joint Stock, a London Theatre company with whom Churchill had worked before. For three weeks they explored the concept of sexual politics, the participants of the workshop having been chosen for their acting experiences and their sexual viewpoints.  The result was a heterogeneous group of both males and females with various heterosexual or homosexual inclinations.  Some members were not quite familiar with the concept of sexual politics while others already had experience working on this subject.

Exploring the idea of sexual politics, the personal experiences and opinions of the group members were central.  Each in turn had to tell about his life and had to answer questions about his own sexual experiences.  In addition to that, the group discussed traditional role-patterns, read books and invited guest-speakers.  Furthermore, they did improvisations and games on the subject and the individual roles of the writer, director and actor were broken down to achieve maximum participation.  Everybody was free to suggest and initiate discussion topics.  This work method had a dual function: to create a climate of confidence and support between the Company members, and to inspire Churchill with interesting ‘raw’ material to write the play.

Churchill based much of her inspiration on an item that was briefly mentioned during the workshop: the French playwright Jean Genet theorized that there existed striking parallels between sexual oppression and colonialism: “the colonial or feminine mentality of interiorised repression”.  Churchill explored this idea.  It resulted in the first act taking place in the Victorian era as we find ourselves in an African country, colonized by the English in the last days of the great British empire.  The second act is set in present-day London.  However, for the characters only twenty-five years have passed.  For this break in linear time Churchill found her inspiration during the workshop: “When we discussed our backgrounds it occurred to us it was as if everyone felt they had been born almost in the Victorian age.  Everyone had grown up with quite conventional and old-fashioned expectations about sex and marriage and felt that they themselves had to make enormous break-aways and leaps to change their lives from that.”

Cloud Nine opened in February 1979 at Darington College.  This was the first of a long string of successful performances.  In March of that same year Cloud Nine played in London at the Royal Court.  In 1980 the play received a very early revival on stage in a co-production of the Royal Court and Joint Stock.  In 1981 it ran for 971 performances at Off-Broadway’s Theatre de Lys.

Cloud Nine was received positively in the press, although not all critics were unanimously enthusiastic.  Widely-acclaimed was the original way the play elaborates the thought that contemporary British patterns of relationships find their origin in Britain’s imperial past.  The critics lauded the original manipulation of the time-chronology, Churchill’s writing skills and her sparkling dialogue.  Highly-appreciated was also the combination of farcical humour and the deep human insight which encourages the audience, in the Brechtian spirit, to actively criticize social conventions and institutions, which they previously had taken for granted.  On the other hand, some critics just found the unconventional time-setting confusing and superfluous.  They didn’t appreciate the “bedroom” humour and the Act I setting in an “already over-satirized era”.  As one critic of the Los Angeles Times remarks about Cloud Nine’s comic exploration of sexual roles: “This isn’t a show to bring your parents to”.  Whatever there has been written about the play, Cloud Nine has had productions worldwide.  It has played in many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil and its revival on stage today still is a resounding success.

Caryl Churchill once told an interviewer about how Cloud Nine got its title: an older woman who ran the snackbar in the building where the cast was at work was willing to tell her life story in the workshop, like the rest of the company had done before.  This unexpected participant hit the essence of the play with her story and provided it with its title:

She came from a large, poor family, had married at sixteen and had a very violent and unhappy marriage, with no pleasure from sex at all...and after thirty years she had remarried.  She told us in quite a bit of detail how she and her new husband gradually got their relationship together.  Finally she said: ‘We may not do it as often as young people, but when we have our organisms [sic], we’re on Cloud Nine.

Cast

Josh Bateson – Harry / Martin

Aine Magennis – Edward / Victoria

Alison Oleszkowicz – Maud / Lin

Vicki Sloan – Mrs. Saunders / Ellen / Betty

Calvin Sweers – Clive / Edward

Sean Vivian – Joshua / Cathy / Bill

John Whelan – Betty / Gerry

Creative Team

Director – Joel Greenberg

Assistant Director – Rhonda Gilson

Set Design – William Chesney

Costume Design – Jocelyne Sobeski

Lighting Design -Louise Guinand

Sound Design – Tom Leslie

Musical Director – Anne-Marie Donovan

Production Team

Stage Manager -Danna Evans

Assistant Stage Managers - Ruth Kelly, Marcus Schwenzer

Production Manager – Laura Pattison

Technical Director/ Theatre of the Arts – Scott Spidell

Assistant Technical Director – Tim Jackson

Head of Lighting Crew – Mike Haltrecht

Lighting Crew – Dave Brown, Jay D’Aoust, Angela Marshall, Tigger McCullough, Dave McCormick, Andrea Peterson

Head of Sound – Scott Elliott

Head of Carpentry Crew – Laurie Hindson

Carpentry Crew – Henry Broczkowski, Jennifer Parker

Head of Scenic Painting Crew – Caroline White

Scenic Painting Crew – Henry Broczkowski

Head of Properties Crew – Linda Patton

Prop Crew – Teresa Bruinsma, Trina Sookhai

Head of Wardrobe Crew – Kristen Burke

Wardrobe Crew – Natalie Budd, Bart Cormier, Jennifer Parker, Kevin Price, Trina Sookhai

Head of Publicity – Joyce Hahn

Publicity Assistant – Andrea Renaud

Publicity Assistant/ Assistant House Manager – Nadine Thornhill

Research Assistant – Anouk Vanherf

House Manager/ Theatre of the Arts – Tom Leslie

Photographer – Charmion Zoll

Opening Song arranged and accompanied – Peter de Sousa

Special Thanks

A-1 Flags

Dept. of Optometry

Drayton Festival Theatre

Patton Family

K-W Music Theatre

Theatre Sheridan

Norman Martin

Twin City Copiers Inc.