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3.5 out of 5 stars
Cloud 9
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
This play is an interesting approach to the question of morality in the 'modern' age. It contrasts two worlds, one of moral certainty in a Victorian colonial home, and one of complete amorality and uncertainty in contemporary Britain. It does however go beyond these issues to deal with other important issues like Gender roles and the general issue of both mental and physical 'colonization' of people by society. This play should be read by anyone even remotely interested in these themes.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Caryl Churchill's dark comedic play, "Cloud Nine" is a masterpiece. Though written in 1978, its commentary on gender roles and sexuality is quite compelling to our youngest generations. With the current controversey over homosexual relationships/marriage, Cloud Nine serves as window into the frustrations and fears of gay characters. People who have a hard time identifying with alternative lifestyles would have a lot to learn from reading through this play. In a way, Churchill's play is a bridge builder between the heterosexual world and the gay minority.
Cloud Nine follows the story of a family. The first act takes place on a South African plantation during the English Victorian Era, while in the second act, though the characters have only aged 20 years, the action takes place in London, England in the 1970's. Clive, the family patron, is the center of a male-oriented soceity and incourages traditional family and gender roles. For the first act, his wife Betty is played by a man, his gay son Edward is played by a woman, and his black servant is played by a white man. Immediately we learn that only Clive is satisfied with his station in life, where the other characters suffer many indignities to themselves that go unnoticed by everyone else (i.e. Edward is being molested by a friend of his father, who eventually attempts to seduce Clive as well). By the second act, time has moved forward and we watch the characters trying to adapt to an ever changing world in which parts of them is too withdrawn.
Chruchill's play is clever and intense with emotion. To connect with one character is to really experience the mental frustration and the indignities that we suffer from a judgemental society. I praise Caryl Churchill for this commentary in hopes that readers will gain a sense of sympathy for such people and in turn will promote tolerance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have just finished reading Caryl Churchill's infamous play "Cloud Nine". I found the book to be an amazing tool to present to the reader those social issues which we have so desperately tried to sweep under the bed. The book is actually a play through which her use of a Brechtian style of theater keeps the reader in a sort of shocked confusion and not very comfortable. At first glance you might say it is vulgar and rude, yet a deeper evaluation proves that this play is an effective tool to dredge up what society has sunk to the bottom of the river.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Cloud Nine is an amazing play, a break-through drama in its time. Churchill plays fast and loose with the decades in her deconstruction of the glacial change of gender typing from Victorian times until the late '70's. She blends cartooned and naturalistic characterization to demonstrate the impact of character types on our deepest ideas of self. This play is funny, revelatory, and terribly moving.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Caryl Churchill's play makes a powerful and courageous statement. She discusses issues of feminism, colonialism, and sex. Set in the Brechtian theater, Churchill is able to tell it like it is. The play does not necessarily condone or diapprove these issues, but puts them out there to be discussed. She infers in her work that ignoring these issues is like approving of these acts by letting them continue to occur. Her characters are sometimes homosexual, or else they are obssessed with premiscuous sex. Her play may be shocking to the reader, but once you are over the initial shock, you begin to realize what she is saying. Churchill forces the reader to think about these issues and how society deals with them. This play is important to our culture and you should pick it up sometime.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
As far as Brechtian plays go, Churchill is a master at alienation and disidentification- characters in this play are played as the protagonist's projection of who he thinks they should be (ie: the westernized African servant is played by a white actor). Although the effect is extremely powerful onstage, particularly when it raises up complex social and ethnic issues, the different characters can be hard to keep straight on paper. This play works far better in performance than it does in print, but it remains a valuable teaching tool for both Brecht and World Theatre studies.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
This a play that was written to make people feel uncomfortable, and conote one's feelings on issues of sexual orientation. The play was writen to follow Brechtian style of theater. That is, it was written not to entertain, but to force an audience to focus on a political and sociol conflict. The first half of the play was very well done. It rolls, and is moderatly entertaining. But, then it hits the second act, when everything comes to a grinding halt. One must force themselves to read the on to finish. This is the effect of the Brechtian theater.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Caryl Churchill has written many strong and valuable plays, many of them about female identity and social roles, but none has supplanted Cloud 9 as her masterwork.
A biting farce of sexuality, gender, traditional familial and class roles, and pointedly, the mask of the Victorian and the Modern English persona, Cloud 9 is as funny as it is awkward, deep as it is quirky.
A true classic of the English stage. Read and if you can, see this.
Highly recommended.
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on November 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
This play reminds me of the sort of `theatre of the absurd' which we did in the 6th form, in the late 1960s, with our trendy drama teacher. It comes from the time of travelling theatre workshops visiting schools with anti-racist and gay liberation agendas. It is like a hilariously funny farce with its cross-dressing and some of us would love see it performed or, at least, see if it is on Youtube. One member of our book group said that if had seen it in 1979 it would have changed his life.

The first act, set in Victorian Africa, shows how the colonials regarded the natives as primitive, herdsmen would gladly chop off others' heads and wear them round their waists and how some natives knew their place, were `white' in their souls though black of skin.

Friendship between men is seen as better and that of a husband to a wife, who is there for reproductive purposes but `there is something dark about women....irrational, inconsistent, lustful; treacherous.'

One woman's advice to a soon to be bride, who knows nothing about sex, is to just keep still. You are not getting married to enjoy yourself

Homosexuality is seen as a `revolting perversion' which led to the fall of Rome and is more contagious than diphtheria. It is especially important not to do it with natives since it would be a betrayal of the Queen.

The second act is a hundred years later, though I don't understand why the characters are only twenty-five years older. Attitudes to sexuality are supposed to be liberated, there is mention of The Hite Report but there is still a feeling of oppression, with some male characters wearing dresses. Maybe attitudes don't change as much as we think they do.
Although the play is well put together, the first act is more believable that the second. The second act is more disturbing than the first. Its people claim to be liberated but are actually quite dysfunctional.
One member felt that it was cartoonish, a bad attempt at a Monty Python sketch. The charcters, wheeled out as stereotypes, are mannequins, upon which we can project. This view was challenged by one who said that they were more akin to archetypes or emblems.
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on September 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
The first act of Cloud Nine takes place in a British colony in Africa during the Victorian Era. The setting itself explains alot of the confusion that accompanies reading the book. During the Victorian Era women were to be "seen but not heard", and that's exactly how women are portrayed in the book. For instance, Victoria, the main characters daughter, is not even a real person. She is "played" by a doll. Then there's Betty, the main character's wife, who is so damn stomach churning submissive. I know with marriage the wife is supposed to be a little submissive to the husband but not to the point where they are almost robotic to his wishes. The book also deals openly with homosexuality and infidelity. I think this was an excellent choice by the author because both of these are dealt with on an everyday basis. Edward, Victoria's older brother, is a potential homosexual. He is 9 years old when the book begins. At age 9 Edward is being molested by his father's friend. All while this is going on Edward is being played by a woman. Edward's character is so easily understood to be played by a woman since he is feminine and potentially gay. I think this book sums up the things that consists of in an explicit, but realistic manner. It hits on such topics like: adultery, homosexuality, "a woman's place in society", and how experiences and decisions change as time progresses. I feel this is a must read book and definitely a play worth seeing.
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