Character, Sexual Identity and the Anti-Play: How Caryl Churchill Achieves Coherence Through Fragmentation and Inversion of Gender Roles in Cloud Nine
In Cloud Nine, playwright Caryl Churchill examines questions of gender identity, sexuality and individual freedom as they exist within two traditional, oppressive ideological paradigms: colonial imperialism and masculine hegemony. By juxtaposing these worlds of political and sexual dominance, Churchill draws a parallel between the paralysis exacted by both frameworks upon the development and expression of unique, authentic personhood. Churchill dramatizes her argument in startling fashion by challenging the touchstones of theatrical convention. Specifically, she defies usual methods of depiction, for some of the main characters in Cloud Nine are portrayed by actors who do not, in any physical or obvious way, resemble those characters.
When violating spectator/reader expectation so drastically, the playwright runs the risk of alienating her audience. Because Churchill distorts and uproots the standards of dramatic characterization in such a bold way, the staging of Cloud Nine can potentially border on the ludicrous or gimmicky. So thrown is the audience, that members might start to disengage from the activity of the play and dismiss its theatrical experimentation as too blatant to be regarded seriously, too overdone to be clever...
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