Presented by Studio Theatre
by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Michael Kahn
Bending time, gender, and genre, Caryl Churchill’s masterwork explores the fluidity of gender, sexuality, and identity.
1880, Africa. Stiff-lipped colonial administrator Clive is the paterfamilias of a hodge-podge Victorian household that includes his flustered wife Betty, disappointing son Edward, nonspeaking daughter Victoria, secretly lesbian governess Ellen, imposing mother-in-law Maud, and fiercely loyal servant Joshua who coexist in an uneasy equilibrium. This balancing act is destabilized by rumors of native uprisings as well as the arrival of Mrs. Saunders, a widow of questionable intentions, and Harry Bagley, the dashing explorer of Betty’s dreams. As tensions rise between local tribes and their British overseers, so does the sexual tension in the house and Clive’s need to enforce decorum. Increasingly scandalous love triangles form and disintegrate, roles and power are questioned, and characters learn the hard way their duty to society and the Crown.
Fast forward a century to 1980, London, where, only twenty-five years have passed for Betty and her children Edward and Victoria. Times have changed: it is an era of sexual liberation and personal fulfillment; but if the political unrest has settled, desires are no less tumultuous: Edward has grown up to be a gardener, but his lover Gerry spends his time “sowing other seeds.” Victoria’s friend Lin is in love with her, but Victoria isn’t sure if she’s ready to leave her husband Martin. As children run amok, sex goddesses are summoned, and mothers come to terms with the conventions they’ve received from their own mothers—and may be passing on to their daughters—the past and the present begin to blur amidst a sexual landscape that perhaps isn’t so liberating after all.
Nearly four decades after its startling debut, Cloud 9’s audacious, playful take on sexual politics resonates anew with its prescient exploration of power and perception. The repression of colonial Africa and the liberation of late-1970s London intersect in Caryl Churchill’s revolutionary masterwork. Bending time, gender, and genre, this nimble modern classic embraces the confusion and complication of identity: What forces define who we are—and at what cost?
Featuring Philippe Bowgen, Wyatt Fenner, Christian Pedersen, Laura C. Harris, Joy Jones, John Scherer and Holly Twyford