Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cloud Nine - Caryl Churchill [February/06]

This is one of the more confusing plays I have undertaken over the last few months. I think it would be a much better play to see in action rather than read as if a book. The author, Caryl Churchill, wishes to cover a lot of major themes in her play. Just a few of them are sexual preference, race, class setting, gender, and much more. In the first half of the play, we witness a Victorian era family residing in a British colony in Africa. The husband is in charge of the "natives", while the rest of the family is expected to reside at home and "be good". The young daughter is even played by a doll in this scene to show her believed mental capabilities. Churchill also causes confusion further by the fact that some of the women characters are played by men, while some of the men characters are played by women. When you are reading it you sometimes forget and just see them as a man or a woman and nothing more, but when you watch it on a stage she hopes that people will overlook the colour, creed, sex, etc and see that when you really think about it, these things are meaningless. The slave, who is said to come from a native tribe, is even played by a white man.

As if some of these qualities in the beginning are not confusing, the second half of the play takes place a hundred years or so after the first part. This might not sound all that bad, but the characters from the first half, some of them are in the second act. The children are adults now and the adults are seniors. They are back in England and the characters are sometimes played by different people than they were in the first half. It is closer to the modern period, and one of the main issues to come out of it is sexual preference. Throughout both halves of the play, characters choose their sexual partners from the same or different sexes quite sporadically. There are only a few "straight" characters in the play, and even some of them by the end are questioning their choices.

It is just a basic story of colonialism and then later life in Britian, but at the same time Churchill has written a play that causes the readers or viewers to question how the world is. Do the things that we make matter so much really matter? Is colour of importance in how you treat someone? Does it matter what sex you choose to spend the rest of your life with? Does it even matter if you are male or female? These are the questions that Churchill leaves you with at the end of the play.


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