Cloud 9

Interpretations and observations

Act I

Act I of Cloud 9 invites the audience to engage with Britain's colonial past, but does so by challenging 'the preconceived notions held by the audience in terms of gender and sexuality'.[3] Churchill subverts gender and racial stereotypes, using cross-gender and cross-racial casting: Betty is played by a man in act I, but by a woman in act II; Joshua is played by a white; and Edward is played by a woman in act I and by a man in act II. Churchill deliberately uses this cross-gender,-racial and -age casting to unsettle the audience's expectations. In the introduction to the play, Churchill explains why Betty is played by a man in the first act: "She wants to be what men want her to be ... Betty does not value herself as a woman." Michael Patterson confirms this, writing that "Betty is played by a man in order to show how femininity is an artificial and imposed construct".[4] James Harding suggests that by cross-casting Betty and Edward in Act I, Churchill is also playing it safe: It makes same-sex relationships visibly heterosexual and normative.[5]

The black servant, Joshua, is played by a white man for similar reasons. He says, "My skin is black, but o, my soul is white. I hate my tribe. My master is my light"; Amelia Howe Kritzer argues that "the reversal exposes the rupture in Joshua's identity caused by his internalization of colonial values".[6] Joshua does not identify with his "own" people; in act I, scene 3, Mrs. Saunders asks if he doesn't mind beating his own people and Joshua replies that they are not his people, and they are "bad."

Act II

The second act is set in London 1979, but for the characters only twenty-five years have passed. Churchill explains her reason for this in the introduction: "The first act, like the society it shows, is male-dominated and firmly structured. In the second act, more energy comes from the women and the gays." In Act II, British colonial oppression remains present, this time in the armed presence in Northern Ireland. Michael Patterson writes that "the actors ... established a 'parallel between colonial and sexual oppression,' showing how the British occupation of Africa in the nineteenth century and its post-colonial presence in Northern Ireland relate to the patriarchal values of society"[7] Churchill shows the audience different views of oppression, both colonial and sexual. She amplifies social constructs by linking the two periods, using an unnatural time gap. Amelia Howe Kritzer argues that "Churchill remained close to the Brechtian spirit of encouraging the audience to actively criticize institutions and ideologies they have previously taken for granted".[6]

There is a great deal of of difference between the two acts: Act II contains much more sexual freedom for women ,whereas in Act I the men dictate the relationships. Act II "focuses on changes in the structure of power and authority, as they affect sex and relationships," from the male-dominated structure in the first act. Churchill writes that she "explored Genet's idea that colonial oppression and sexual oppression are similar."[6] She essentially uses the play as a social arena to explore "the Victorian origins of contemporary gender definitions and sexual attitudes, recent changes ... and some implications of these changes."[6]

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.