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 Violence

- 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?

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 Gordon and his forces; fall of Khartoum

1889-1902    Boer War

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 humor)?

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 not?

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.