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play readings

“You can tame a wild animal only so far.”

CLOUD 9 by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Brandon Walker

Caryl Churchill's revolutionary masterwork is an audacious and playful take on sexual politics, which resonates today as much as its startling 1979 debut in its exploration of power and perception. Drawing a line between Colonialism and Feminism, this modern classic bends time, gender, and genre and embraces the confusion and complication of identity: What forces define who we are—and at what cost?

TSP Main Stage - June 30-July 16, 2017
at the Access Theater, 380 Broadway (4th Fl) NYC

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Cloud 9 is a two-act play written by British playwright Caryl Churchill. This time-shifting comedy by the author of Top Girls created a sensation with its world premiere in London in 1979 and its Off Broadway premiere in 1981. The New York Times calls Caryl Churchill "one of the wisest and bravest playwrights on the planet."

The searing comedy is a 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.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)


About Caryl Churchill's Brechtian "Alienation" Techniques

In the essay, As You Can See: Brecht, Butler, and the Body in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine, Hannah Hammel writes:

“Cloud Nine is a play in which the actors are not always meant to traditionally match the gender or race of the character they portray. Further, the actors do not play one character throughout the entire show but, rather, switch roles between Acts I and II. This nontraditional casting establishes an immediate contrast between the perceived identities of the characters as set out in the dialogue and their embodiment on the stage. The mismatching of (traditional) body and performance of the characters is a tactic of alienation, a technique defined by Bertolt Brecht, which forces the audience to question enacted societal norms as it sees them represented on the stage. By extension, this is meant to make the audience question the norms that they accept and expect in their daily lives. The theater, for Brecht, is not only a means of telling stories, but a means of showing the audience the momentary and flexible nature of all concepts through which we ground our society. In Cloud Nine, Brechtian alienation is used to reaffirm the fluidity of normative roles throughout history and in contemporary society, and also to present a critique of the theater arts themselves.”

To read the full essay, please click here.


Also, see out TSP Unplugged Reading of OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD

We are also presenting a free reading of Timberlake Wertenbaker's fast-moving farce, OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, on July 10, 2017 (7pm.) Wertenbaker's work has been said to draw influence directly from Caryl Churchill, and we couldn't be more excited to pair these plays together for our audience.

Here's is an excerpt from Frank Rich's 1991 review of the Broadway production of OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, discussing Churchill's influence on Wertenbaker's work:

"By far the most positive Royal Court influence on Ms. Wertenbaker is that of Caryl Churchill, whose imprint can be seen when the actresses playing convicts in "Our Country's Good" double in the roles of English officers. The cross-sexual casting not only echoes a Churchill comedy about colonialism ("Cloud 9") and, for added dividends, the farcical plot of "The Recruiting Officer" itself, but it also honors Ms. Wertenbaker's point about the subversive power of theater to liberate an audience from all shackles of reality, including divisions of sex and class."

To reserve a seat for OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, click here.


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1st Row: Erin Cronican* (Edward/Lin), Jane Kahler* (Ellen/Mrs Saunders/Betty), Bill McAndrews (Joshua/Martin), 2nd Row: Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia (Maud/Victoria), Robin Friend Stift (Harry/Edward), Ari Veach (Betty/Gerry), Brandon Walker* (Clive/Cathy). Stand-by for Joshua/Martin: Michael Clay.

* = member of Actors' Equity Association

Directed by Brandon Walker. Co-Direction by Erin Cronican.
Lighting Design by Duane Pagano. Sound Design by Brandon Walker. Set/Costume Design by Erin Cronican.

Assistant Direction by Candice Oden. Assistant Production Design by Robin Friend Stift.
Dialect Coaching: Jane Kahler.


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Production Photos - Click for Slideshow


Coming soon!



Feature Articles and Essays about CLOUD 9:


Cast Feature: Feminist writer Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine revived

Essay: As You Can See: Brecht, Butler, and the Body in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine




Reviews for Previous Productions of CLOUD 9:


"[Caryl Churchill] is one of the wisest and bravest playwrights on the planet." - Ben Brantley, New York Times

"CLOUD 9 is a feminist classic that still bowls theatergoers over with its breathtaking theatrical daring." - Charles McNulty, LA 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



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