Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine
- 1938: Born in London to a cartoonist and film actress
- 1960: Receives degree in English literature from Oxford
- 1961: Married David Harter and raised 3 sons
- 1972: First production experience with Owners
- 1974: Resident of Royal Court Theatre
- 1975: Objections to Sex and
- 1976: Member of Joint Stock Theatre Group (collective creation of
theatrical work) and Monstrous Regiment; Vinegar Tom
- 1978/79: Cloud Nine
- 1980/82: Top Girls
- 1981: Cloud Nine performed
in New York
- 1982/83: Fen
4: coolth = coolness
18: (Christmas) crackers = pull toys given to children at Christmas
75: pissed = drunk
81: dole = unemployment/welfare
What is postmodernism?
Post-modern literature is experimental and abandons binary
oppositions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Post-modern literature addresses conflicts between science and
nature and critiques the West’s dominance in post-1945 global politics.
Postmodernism deals with the end of idealism and horrific
realities of modern life.
Post-modernism denies linear order.
Empire and Colonialism
Beg. of 19th c.: more than 2,000 miles separated the British and
Russian empires in Asia
1839-42 First War in Afghanistan
1843 Sind annexed
1846-49 Punjab annexed
1853-56 Crimean War
1853: Turkey declares war on Russia
1854: Middle East (Russian Orthodox monks and French Catholic
priests fight over who has precedence at holy places in Jerusalem and
Nazareth); Tsar Nicholas I moves troops into Moldavia and Walachia
(then Ottoman Turkish Empire, now Rumania) and sinks Turkish flotilla
in the Black sea); Britain, already distrustful of Russian intentions
in Afghanistan and Central Asia, allies with France and then Turkey
against Russia; Russians driven out of Balkans; Battle of Balaklava
(near destruction of British light cavalry)
1854-55: Winter (troops barely survive, Florence Nightingale
rises to the occasion)
1856: Sevastapol falls; Peace of Paris
1857 The Great Mutiny
1865 Jamaica Rebellion
1877 Queen Victoria made
empress of India
1878-80 Second Anglo-Afghan War
1885 Massacre of General
and his forces; fall of Khartoum
1889-1902 Boer War
End of 19th c.: Only a few hundred miles separate the British
Quotes on Colonialism
1. "Trade’s proud empire hastes to swift decay." Samuel Johnson
2. "An empire is an immense egotism." Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. "Without the Empire we should be tossed like a cork in the cross
current of world politics. It is at once our sword and our shield."
William Morris Hughes (Australian Prime Minister)
4. "To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people
of customers, may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation
of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation
of shopkeepers, but extremely fit for a nation that is governed by
shopkeepers." Adam Smith
5. "To campaign against colonialism is like barking up a tree that has
already been cut down." Andrew Cohen
Answer one of the following Interpretive questions:
1. What distinguishes the “enemy” from the family in Act I? How are
non-white cultures represented? Why is the family afraid of them?
2. Is Cloud 9 relevant today, or did its frank language and
sexuality break ground for its time and its time only (e.g., is it just
a snapshot of its historical and social context)? If it has lost its
shock value, has it lost value altogether?
3. What do the songs of Cloud 9 signify (aside from adding
4. How does Cloud 9 compare to Scarlet Song? What view
of colonial occupation, gender relations, and the oppression of
Africans does it offer Western readers?
5. What kind of behavior, according to Churchill, does the British
experience of colonialism ‘teach’ men and women?
Group Discussion Questions
1. In the second Act of Cloud 9,
Betty splits up from Clive, Victoria leaves Martin, and Lin, Victoria,
and Edward live together. Are relationships in the modern world any
more ‘healthy’ than those portrayed in colonial Africa? How? Why or why
2. This play is a result of workshop theater, or a space in which
participants play with different roles and ‘workshop’ their ideas. What
issues do you think participants discussed to result in this play?
3. What is the effect of the two different time periods in which the
play’s action occurs? Imagine act 2 without act 1 as it is; what kind
of play would Cloud 9 become?
What effect does the doubling of characters (from the first to the
second act) have on the play (see list of actors and characters)?
4. What is the effect of the interjection of songs in the play? Analyze
one of the songs.