Magazine

FAQ: A very quick guide to Cloud Nine

Date posted: 10 Jul 2017Author: STC Production: Cloud Nine

Anita Hegh, Kate Box and Harry Greenwood in Cloud Nine (Photo: Daniel Boud)

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

Cloud Nine is about an extended family of characters growing up and discovering who they are – as individuals, as family members, as lovers – while searching for their place in society.

Director Kip Williams says, “I think the play asks a number of questions to do with who we are, how we perform identity, what our authentic relationship to self is … it’s about the journey that we're all on towards self-acceptance.”

For more details, see our synopsis.

 

WHO WROTE IT?

British playwright Caryl Churchill wrote the play in 1978-79. Cloud Nine was her first hugely successful international hit – its first Off-Broadway season ran for two years and won her an Obie award.

Widely considered one of the world’s greatest playwrights, Churchill has written countless productions over her long career. We presented her recent play Love and Information in 2015.

For more details, see our quick intro to Caryl Churchill.

 

WHAT'S WITH THE CROSS-GENDER CASTING?

The play explores ideas around identity and sexuality. Part of the way it does that is through its cross-gender casting. Women play men and men play women to help reveal some of the assumptions we make about gender. The results are both very funny and very moving.

 

Heather Mitchell in Cloud Nine (Photo: Daniel Boud)

WHY IS IT SET IN TWO DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS?

Indeed, the play is split into two distinct but related halves. The first half is set in Victorian-era 1860s, the second half is set in the modern day – but some of the characters appear in both.

The reason for this is quite specific. In researching the play, Churchill found that people talked about their childhoods, and the attitudes towards sex and marriage that they had been given, as though they were very conventional, almost Victorian-era. So, to highlight the changing morality of both society and the characters themselves, she decided to write it with this trick of theatrical time travel.

 

WHAT DOES THE TITLE MEAN?

The phrase “on cloud nine” refers to a state of happiness or bliss. The exact origins of the phrase are unclear, but Caryl Churchill apparently latched on to it as the title while researching the play…

The story goes that a woman working at the snack bar of the Tower Theatre in central London, talked to Churchill about her unhappy first marriage and how she had only discovered sexual pleasure with her second husband. She told Churchill, “We may not do it as often as you young people, but when we have our orgasms, we’re on cloud nine.” The image clearly stuck.

 

HAVE I SEEN IT BEFORE?

You may well have! Sydney’s old Nimrod Theatre Company did a production in 1981 featuring Colin Friels, Barry Otto and Deidre Rubenstein.

 

 

Cloud Nine, 1 Jul – 12 Aug 2017, Wharf 1 Theatre

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