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Cloud 9 - Full Length Play, Comedy

Cloud 9

Caryl Churchill

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Full Length Play, Comedy

4m, 3f

ISBN: 9780573618741

"Intelligent, inventive and funny." - The New York Times

More Information Below:

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: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $100 per performance

Optional Music/Media Fee: $25 per performance


Full Length Play


More than 120 minutes (2 hours)

Time Period - Contemporary, 1980s, Victorian (British and American)

Settings Of Play - Africa, 1880, and London, 1980.


Unit Set/Multiple Settings

Period Costumes


Mild Adult Themes




College Theatre / Student, Professional Theatre

This time-shifting comedy by the author of Top Girls created a sensation with its Off Broadway premiere, directed by Tommy Tune. Both parody and spoof of the Victorian Empire and its rigid attitudes, especially toward sex. There is Clive, a British functionary; his wife Betty (played by a man); their daughter Victoria (a rag doll); Clive’s friend Harry, an explorer; Mrs. Saunders, who runs about dressed in a riding habit; Clive’s son Edward, who still plays with dolls and is played by a woman; and Joshua, a native servant who knows exactly what is really going on. What really is going on is a marvelous send-up and a non-stop round-robin of sexual liaisons. All this time the natives are restless in the background. The second act shifts to London in 1980. Except for the surviving characters, it is only twenty-five years later, and all those repressed sexual longings have evaporated, along with the Empire.


"Intelligent, inventive and funny." - The New York Times

"I really don't know when I've had more fun. It blends farce, pathos into a work of total theatre." - New York Daily News

Cloud 9 premiered at the Dartington College of Arts in Totnes, England, on February 14, 1979.



4m, 3f


Reduced casting (Doubling Possible)

Act 1
CLIVE - a colonial administrator
BETTY - his wife, played by a man
JOSHUA - his black servant, played by a white
EDWARD - his son, played by a woman
VICTORIA - his daughter, a dummy
MAUD - his mother-in-law
ELLEN - Edward's governess
HARRY BAGLEY - an explorer
MRS. SAUNDERS - a widow (played by the same actress who plays Ellen)
Act 2
BETTY - now played by a woman (normally the same actress who plays Edward)
EDWARD - her son, now played by a man (normally the same actor who plays Betty)
VICTORIA - her daughter (normally played by the same actress who plays Maud)
MARTIN - Victoria's husband (normally played by the same actor who plays Harry)
LIN - a lesbian single mother (normally played by the same actress who plays Ellen/Mrs. Saunders)
CATHY - Lin's daughter, age 5, played by a man (normally the same actor who plays Clive)
GERRY - Edward's lover (normally played by the same actor who plays Joshua)
Rental Materials

Optional sound effects available.

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Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill was born on 3 September 1938 in London and grew up in the Lake District and in Montreal. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Downstairs, her first play written while she was still at university, was first staged in 1958 and won an award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. Caryl Churchill’s plays include: Owners, Traps, Light Shining in ... view full profile

Now Playing
Elizabeth Minski 8/14/2013 1:48 PM
One of the more complicated depictions of gender and sexuality in Britain over the course of a hundred years, but only two generations, Cloud 9 tells the story of a nuclear family, as performed by several people of varying genders.  To further complicate the story, the actors change parts over the course of two acts to better illustrate the gender and racial roles played out on the grand global stage of Britain in its colonial heyday and in its post-colonial state.  Caryl Churchill takes her audience on a journey much farther than deepest Africa or back to the Victorian age, but to some deeply intrinsic questions about ourselves and our society and how we do or do not fit into these constructs.

The farcical quality of the first act is nicely paced, with some really unexpected and comical turns that liven the somewhat dark ideas at play.  The second act seems harshly realistic in comparison, but this turn gives the play some needed gravitas for a discussion of a post-colonial identity.  An engaging read that would be a challenge to stage well, Cloud 9 should not be overlooked by the theatre wanting a bit of social subversion.
Laura Jo Schuster 4/18/2013 4:50 PM
"Cloud 9" is a near-perfect examination of gender politics. Churchill's play technically spans a century, with Act One taking place in Victorian Colonial Africa, and Act Two one hundred years later in London. By taking advantage of some gender-bending conceits, Churchill is able to point out the ridiculousness of Victorian ideals without sounding preachy or losing the attention of the audience. She focuses on traditional gender roles, with very English Clive as the stiff-upper-lip, can-do-no-wrong head of the household. His wife Betty (played by a man) is completely reliant upon Clive for her well-being and self-worth: she is the epitome of Victorian values, and must embody whatever Clive expects of her. Churchill masterfully satirizes Victorian life by casting men as women and vice-versa, with the added complication of African servant Joshua (played by a white man). The characters are fascinatingly oppressed by their society and locked into their gender roles with the exception of the widow Mrs. Saunders, who prefers to remain single and make her own decisions (for which she becomes a scapegoat at the end of Act One). Sexuality is running rampant, as if the characters are squeezed so tightly by societal rules that they cannot help but act out. Act One is at the same time horrific and hilarious; each character has a specific subversive agenda they desperately try and fulfill while still appearing to be the picture of Victorianism.

Act Two addresses many of the same characters (only one hundred years later in London). While Act One satirizes the Victorians, Act Two is a genuine quest for identity for many of the characters. Homosexuality, self-discovery, and the dissolution of traditional marriage are at the forefront of the issues. Perhaps the most poignant moment is a monologue from Betty--now played by a woman--where she admits to being afraid of life without Clive, but has found strength and peace in her own sexuality.

This play is a must-read for college students, but perhaps its nuances and complexities are best performed by a professional company. With "Cloud 9," Churchill hits a number of nails squarely on the head.
David Osmundsen 4/18/2013 11:01 AM
Caryl Chuchill’s bold exploration of roles and their effect on society is constructed very conspicuously: The first act, which takes place on a remote military outpost in Africa in the Victorian era, plays like a well-made farce. It is a flawlessly nuanced, insightful, and tautly structured commentary on sexuality, class, and colonialism. Churchill’s humanist point is stated brilliantly here: That people don’t belong in a rigid gender and/or societal roles. The second act, taking place in the liberated London of 1979, features a less wieldy structure. While some scenes are downright odd (for example, the drunken orgy scene), the structure, or lack thereof, reflects the looser social mores of the time period well. However, there is a plot hole: At the end of the first act, the family servant Joshua is about to shoot the patriarch Clive. No mention of this is made during the second act, and the event has no implications whatsoever on the plot or the characters. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate choice made by Churchill, or an oversight on her part.

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