Cloud Nine

Written by Caryl Churchill

Thurs 15th September - Sat 27th September & Tues 30th September - Sat 4th October 1986

Directed by Ben Payne

An inventive and entertaining exploration of sexual repression and role-conditioning. In the Africa of the 1880s, a colonial family struggles manfully to keep both the natives without, and the natives within under control.
Act 2 is set in the 'liberated' Britain of the 1980s. The characters have aged by 25 years, become more real, but patterns repeat themselves and the ghosts of the past return to haunt them. (This play contains sexually explicit material which some people may find offensive.)

AuthorCaryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill (b 1938)

Caryl Churchill was born in London and grew up in the Lake District and in Montreal. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read English. 'Downstairs', her first play, was written while she was still at university. It was first staged in 1958 and won an award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. She wrote a number of plays for BBC radio and 'The Judge's Wife' was televised by the BBC in 1972. 'Owners', her first professional stage production, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in the same year.

Churchill was Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court between 1974 and 1975 and spent much of the 70s and 80s working with the theatre groups Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment. Her work during this period includes Cloud Nine. She has won many writing awards during her career including an Olivier Award, several Susan Smith Blackburn Prizes, and multiple Obie and Evening Standard Awards.

PlayCloud Nine

Cloud Nine is a two-act play written by British playwright Caryl Churchill after workshops with the Joint Stock Theatre Company in late 1978 and first performed at Dartington College of Arts in 1979.

This play shows how an individual's personality can be warped by pressure of what society expects it to be. The first act finds a white family in Victorian Africa trying to keep their upper lips stuff, the flag flying, the local savages down and their own sexuality at bay. Liberated 80s Britain is the setting for the second half, but there is still violence, repression and confusion as the past echoes in the present.

The Bench Production

Cloud Nine poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Act One - Colonial Africa 1886

CliveTony Kellaway
BettyPeter Holding
JoshuaSimon Iggleden
EdwardRobbie Cattermole
MaudJo German
Harry BagleyFrank Lyons
Ellen/Mrs SaundersJude Salmon

Act Two - London 1986

BettyRobbie Cattermole
EdwardPeter Holding
VictoriaJo German
LinJude Salmon
CathyTony Kellaway
GerrySimon Iggleden
MartinFrank Lyons
Tommy/BillRussell Lockwood


Director Ben Payne
Stage Manager Richard Stacey
Assistant Stage Managers Damon Wakelin
Russell Lockwood
Lighting Steve Moth
Jacquie Penrose
Debbie Valentine
John Valentine
Sound Chris Callender
Costume Belinda Egginton
Set Design/Music Cerys Hogg
Set Construction David Brown
David Penrose
Marion Howe
Cerys Hogg
Publicity Mike Boyce
Jane Hart

Director's Notes

In 1978/9 Caryl Churchill got together with the Joint Stick Theatre Group to produce a play about 'sexual politics'. The starting point was for the group to talk about their own experiences, read books and talk to other people.

In writing the first act she used a specific idea which had emerged from the 7 actors in the group - the parallel between sexual and colonial repression. So the first act is set in Colonial Africa of the 19th Century where Clive, the white father, in preserving the rigid order of the British Empire and British Family warps the personalities of those around him.

The second act moves to the more 'liberated' London of our own time. But, despite the freer atmosphere, were have only come so far - there is still confusion, repression, violence and an inability to love on each other's terms.

Nothing is funnier than other people's misfortune, particularly sexual misfortune - but we see how the individual suffers in attempting to find some sort of emotional freedom.

Ben Payne


The NewsSue Wilkinson

Everyone stars in 'Cloud Nine'

A porcelain doll used to represent a two-year old child and a man in drag were among the theatrical tricks used by the Bench Theatre to present 'Cloud Nine' at Havant Arts Centre. There were no stars amongst the cast, each shone as brilliantly as the others in their role-playing. Caryl Churchill chooses a representative from every sexual house in her exciting and original discussion of repression and freedom.

The first act is set in Victorian Africa where men protect Queen and country while the women bring up the family, lie back and think of England. The liberated 1980s provides the setting for the second half, But still some are bound by old conventions. Each character suffers mental torture, haunted by ghosts of the past, in a struggle to establish emotional and sexual freedom.

The play demanded and got a high standard of acting and it was a complete joy to see a group in complete control of difficult material, enjoying themselves, and ensuring the audience were informed as well as entertained. I recommend you take a trip to 'Cloud Nine' but the language and material are not suitable for children. The production continues until next Friday, except Sunday and Monday.

The News, 16th September 1986

Production Photographs