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Cloud 9

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  6,038 ratings  ·  204 reviews
In colonial Africa, a Victorian English patrician represses the natives, his wife, his children, homosexuals—and still finds time for an affair with a widowed neighbor. The same family appears in Act Two 25 years older and back in London, only now it’s 1979. Cloud 9 is about relationships between women and men, men and men, women and women. It is about sex, work, mothers, ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Theatre Communications Group (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,038 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Barry Pierce
A hilarious and incredibly raunchy play from one of Britain's pre-eminent playwrights Caryl Churchill. Packed to the brim with taboo-breaking moments and played out by a cast of gender bending and race transcending characters, Cloud Nine is a play that will make you think, and gag, and look away, and laugh, and feel awkward. You definitely won't forget it easily. ...more
Feb 12, 2009 added it
Shelves: tutoring
Cloud 9 is a dive into the deep end of sexual politics.

From the cast list—which indicates that some women and girls should be played by men, a black character played by a white, and a boy by a woman—it’s clear that readers are in for an adventure.

How successfully this works is another question.

Cloud 9 is broken into two acts. The first act tells the story of a British family in Africa during the Victorian era. They are part of an oppressive regime, and the oppression of the Africans by the Brit
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-assigned
Very peculiar. This was a required reading for my philosophy class. I didn't appreciate the "random" element of this play. There is probably lots to analyze in there but I just got bored with the crudeness and the confusing plot. There are way too many characters! Not for me. ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant 👏👏👏
Jessica López-Barkl
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Boy o' boy! This play caused quite the uproar in my 2009 North Campus (Washington State Penitentiary) Representative Plays class. 6 students got to page six and slammed the book shut and refused to keep reading (as their response paper told me). Yikes! I had never thought of this as a very controversial play. I did the dramaturgy in a team effort in 1999 and I was watching the gender switching/time switching/genre switching/place switching right in front of my little eyes and I hadn't really tho ...more
Holly Baker
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was really impressed with this until the ending, what a non-ending. Everything's very on the nose in this both with the blunt dialogue between the characters and the social commentary stuff, but that's what makes it so funny. I really want to see it performed now because I bet its even funnier when you can see the gender bender roles instead of just imagine it because it's quite hard to rememver which characters are being cross played so as to speak. ...more
Laala Kashef Alghata
Apr 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I love this play. Maybe I’m the right age for it. Maybe it’s just different enough to be interesting, maybe because I don’t read a lot of plays I think it’s clever, maybe Caryl Churchill is just an amazing writer.

It has two acts, one set in Victorian times in a British colony in Africa. Act Two is in London in 1979 — a hundred years have passed, but for the characters it is twenty-five years later. In first act, Betty, who is Clive’s wife, is played by a man to symbolize her trying to be everyt
Jun 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Caryl Churchill is actually a very good writer if she'd just quit writing about sex for longer than thirty seconds. ...more
Samuel Zucca
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: year-one-plays
Well this play was absolutely off the wall.

After really hating Top Girls I was so pleased at how enjoyable this was. It's quite dizzying with it's race and gender swaps, time jumps from colonial Africa to 1970s London, and everyone seeming to be sleeping with everyone else.

A lot of the themes in the play are quite dark, and troubling and immediate, but that doesn't stop it from being really fun. When I read this in my head it almost seemed like a musical, as most scenes do have a song involve
Anna Groover
Cloud 9 wrestles with a lot of important social issues by rendering the familiar unfamiliar: women are played by men, men are played by women, and a black man is played by a white man. In this sense, it's satirical and a little bit nonsensical--the first act takes place in colonial Africa and the second act in the (somewhat) present day, although the characters only age 25 years in the time that passes between acts.

I appreciated the relationality at the heart of many of the conflicts between ch
Charley Rose
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a play I had to read for my tutorial at University and I'm really glad that it was chosen. It was uncomfortable in a way that a play about sexual politics should be, and it was both thought provoking and crudely funny as well. I liked the references to other pieces of literature and also songs from around the time, (Tommy's Gun!), that were subtle but added to the meaning. The characters, although many of them deliberately archetypal of the people they were supposed to represent in soci ...more
Lillian Lippold
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Churchill really is so good at what she does.

The fact that this play premiered in 1981 is absolutely surreal to me. It feels so ahead of its time. It feels so revolutionary. Even reading it now, it feels revolutionary.

The way Churchill writes about sex and women is so honest that it hits you in the face. There is nothing sugarcoated. They are honest characters that exist in such a creative way that I find myself confused and in awe of the complexity that is demonstrated. There is nothing simple
Well that was interesting! I liked the gender-bending. I'll be very interested to discuss this in class! But I'm even more sure now that I don't like 20th century things, or at least the stuff the uni chooses, cause it's all bawdy and kinda gross. But I've got more used to it since last year 🙄 wow never thought I'd "get used to" (or at least acclimatised/resigned to) gay sex in books! ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thematically bold and gender-bending, Churchill's wryly amusing take on the colonial and patriarchal mindset was way ahead of its time (the first run of the play was in 1979). She also lets her creativity loose, jumping ahead a century between the halves of the story while the characters themselves only age 25 years. For many people, this was rightly the play that made Caryl Churchill's name. ...more
Emma Getz
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-plays, drama
Cloud 9 is messy and ambitious, but those types of plays tend to be my favorites. The entire structure relies on Brechtian distancing effects, which is what makes it so strong. The story therefore ends up in the structure itself.
It tackles issues of gender, sexual identity, and perhaps most importantly the massive and longstanding effects of British colonialism. The play doesn’t provide perfect answers, but it doesn’t really need to. It would be super interesting to watch this one performed liv
Ivy-Mabel Fling
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant play, particularly the first act which is full of scathing satire on the hypocrisy of British colonialism. I wonder if anyone would dare to stage it at the moment!
Katie Greenwood
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
**Actual Rating 3.5**
This isn't the sort of play you can read on the train...or half asleep. Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 aims to make strange that which we see far too often, similar to Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle (review here). But this play does it in a far more interesting and entertaining way. Certain characters are cross cast, meaning a man can be played by a woman, a POC character can be played by a white character and vice versa. This unique aspect of Cloud 9 satirises aspects of our so
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theater
Love and acceptance of oneself and of others is a theme at the heart of this amazing British play that revolutionized English theater. As the censorship of the theater was stripped away, Churchill took the opportunity to present a play that was overtly frank in its depiction and discussion of sex, sexuality, and gender roles in the 1970's. Homosexuality, gender bending, adultery, violence, racism, and graphic language all take center stage in a play that will leave you both hysterical with laugh ...more
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010, drama
Hilarious and provocative meditation on identity, sexism, colonialism, sexuality and theatricality. The play's first act is set in colonial Africa, a Victorian-era parallelism (?) between the project of Empire and the microcosm of the family. Gender/sex/body bending abounds. Act two transplants the same figures into contemporary England (well, contemporary to the play's publication in the end of the 70s) and questions whether we read this transition between Victorianism and 'modern' sexual polit ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars (although I later downgraded it to 3.75 stars)
I'm not really sure what to say other than I thought this was just incredible. (I've spent the past five minutes trying to articulate my thoughts but it didn't make any sense, so I guess all I can tell you is to just read it.)

(Or watch it)

Edit that was written two minutes after I published this review: I feel like I'm overhyping the play. Basically the thing that blew my mind was the symbolism behind characters being played by actors o
This book explores a lot of social conventions. Sexuality, gender, gender expression, sex, race. I seems to touch on everything. And it comically shows us, as readers, how preposterous these stereotypes and roles are.I loved how casually these scenes played out.
Robert O Mahony
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: school-college, drama
Really don't know what to say about this. It was funny at times and its take on gender/sexuality is pretty clever but just... what. Half of the dialogue just seemed nonsensical. Lectures will probably clear that up. Pretty enjoyable overall! ...more
Alan O'Keeffe
Feb 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: british
A thought provoking satire that has a smidgen of sex, (by smidgen I mean I am being highly sarcastic and it is full of it.
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Because the Theatre Arts Department at the University of Miami is producing the play, I will be teaching Cloud Nine this semester to my Into to Theater students. Anticipating this, I reread it this morning. So here are some thoughts...

Act One transpires in Africa during Victorian times, and Act Two jumps to London in 1979, though the characters have only aged 25 years. The historical division between the two acts is almost as significant, if not more so, than the non-traditional casting in Act O
Alex Jones
Apr 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
There are things I like about "Cloud 9." I think having the same actors play different characters between the first and second acts is interesting. I think casting men in female roles and women in male roles (along with a white character in a black role) highlights the absurdity of the characters' prejudices in a unique way.

But there are far more things I do not like about "Cloud 9." Here's the main one: the characters are awful people. This fact in itself does not mean a play has to be bad. Ari
Nick Jones
This isn’t the most subtle of plays, but there is no reason a play should be subtle. A play about sexual politics, but the sex might be more coherent than the politics. The form of Cloud Nine, however, is intriguing. The first act is set in British colonial Africa sometime during Victoria’s reign, the second act is in contemporary London (i.e., late 1970s London). The children in the first act are now adults...although they’ve only aged by about twenty years which doesn’t make sense in a realist ...more
Jon Hewelt
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like Caryl Churchill's work, but I often find I don't understand it.

That's not meant as a criticism. Part of what endears me to her plays is the complexity, the denseness, the sense that there is something being said here, that there is something to be understood.

The foreword indicates that Cloud 9 was developed as a workshop piece, and perhaps more than any other play, I would very much loved to have been witness to that process.

The first act concerns a cluster of Brits in colonialist Africa.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Alright.... So Act I started off really interestingly. It was a thought-provoking dialogue of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and imperialism. However, Act II was straight up scary. Act II takes place in 1970s England (in contrast to Act I, which is set in Victorian Africa) and shows how the same characters have advanced from the patriarchal, heteronormative ideas of "yore" (as one would assume, racial tensions have not eased, especially coming off the turbulence of the 1960s and the still-fresh ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This postmodern play won't suit every reader. But, anyone interested in the British Empire, the 19th-century, feminism and expressionism should find Churchil's play intriguing, funny and sharp in its criticism of gender and race politics. In a trademark Churchill move, the first and second acts of the play are set in entirely different centuries and locations (i.e., the first act of the play is set in colonial Africa, and the second in 1970s Britain). The result is that readers/viewers of the pl ...more
David Blue
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest English-language plays of the twentieth century. Hilarious and heart-breaking (as well as heart-mending). It plays with reality in terms of verse, jumping oe'r time, gender roles, and eventually doing a bit of moebius strip twist when it comes to expectations. The very first performance I ever saw of this play, the ending became crystal clear seconds before it happened--and the tears of joy welled up, then flowed. Powerful, funny, disturbing, hope-filled without becoming poly ...more
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Edi Litposting : Cloud 9 1 3 Oct 21, 2017 06:22AM  

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Caryl Churchill (born 3 September 1938) is an English dramatist known for her use of non-naturalistic techniques and feminist themes, dramatisation of the abuses of power, and exploration of sexual politics.[1] She is acknowledged as a major playwright in the English language and one of world theatre's most influential writers.

Her early work developed Bertolt Brecht's modernist dramatic and theatr

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