Cloud Nine

IMG_2210Cloud Nine
written by Carol Churchill
Directed by James MacDonald
Atlantic Theatrre Company

Production websiteย  ย  ย ๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ’‰ out of 5.

Cloud Nine was the dirtiest play that I have ever read – that is when I was in undergraduate school in the early eighties. It was full of not only talk about gender, cross-dressing, gay and lesbian issues – – it actually played them out – – and further – – it went on to stage actual sex acts on stage. I thought the world of that the world of theatre was going to change forever! It did! – – at least to the the 90โ€™s when all of this actually become a bit played out – and certainly here in the 21st century it plays out as a curious period piece of a play suffering as a severe horn-dog and unable to find a date for the weekend. I knew in college that you were also to talk about the comments it makes about the tyranny of Victorian England marching into Africa and laying claim to everything it saw. I knew that one was to discuss the MacKenzie report and the machinations of the womenโ€™s liberation movement. I knew that you were to “seminar-ice” about race relations, repression and internalized loathing. A mini-Britannia getting to worked up in its restrictive underwear – yeah yeah, I get it – – but, again at the time, it all seemed like buying a dirty magazine claiming it was for the articles – – and actually writing college papers about the โ€œsex-talkโ€ letters stuck to and between the centerfolds. I actually wrote a research paper (the only one I can remember from those early years) on the โ€œThe Role of Adrogeny as Expressed in Cloud Nine and Personified in David Bowieโ€ Better title actually then paper . . .

This production was more of a period piece – unfortunately – – the late 80โ€™s rather put a damper on run-away sexuality, Will and Grace let us see differences of sexuality in a more normal, wholesome way. and in the 21st century, the doors are coming off!

Act 1 is set in the world of Victorian England. Act I gives us an adult twist on a sex farce – – but there were precious few laughs the night I saw it. The surprises and plot twists that fuel a farce were missing. The jokes were few. Instead we got a rather set of desperate collection of hard-dogs more set on โ€œgetting someโ€ then working up some laughs. The relentless sex of Act 1, either confirmed a play that was trying way too hard or a teacher long past enjoying an evening of dirty jokes.

Act 2 – set in the late 1970โ€™s of the plays origin removed all the barriers and the stiff-collared restrictions of Victoria England and propelled us decades forward – – now to find sexual freedom even more restrictive then sexual inprisonment. The Mackenzie Report, womenโ€™s liberation, gay bathhouses, and gender-free toys for children simply made getting laid on a Friday night more of a mess – and a pretty boring mess at that.

The true beauty of the play came from the Victorian Betty, played of course by a male actor embracing the contemporary Betty, now played by a woman, discovering the liberating power of simply embracing yourself as a sexual animal and enjoying the feelings. They hug as the lights go out and finally sex becomes beautiful and meaningful.

One additional lesson from the play – be wary of constructing an all wood set of clever scaffoldings to give the play a wonderful โ€œin-the-roundโ€ experience. Hard wooden, upright seats do not work so well on a three hour play with an audience that is somewhere between 70 and a final walk into the light. Ouch!

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