Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Becky Lennington, Staff Writer
“I used to touch myself when I was very little.” For weeks now, I have been listening to my roommate practicing lines like this in a British accent. So, naturally, I have been looking forward to the K College production of Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill for quite some time.
The satirical British farce was shown this past weekend in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse. Hilarious and at times tragic, this play dealt unabashedly with serious themes. The play spans 100 years, but the characters themselves only age 25 years. Several actors played roles across genders. The cast pulled this off well and every member put on a realistic and thoroughly entertaining British accent.
The first act of Cloud Nine satirizes Victorian society in colonial Africa. It takes place in 1880 and follows a family trying to live conventionally. It’s a male-dominated environment, and many of the characters are confined by the strict gender and sexuality norms of the time. The family has an African servant who satirizes the danger of British influence on African identity. Parallels are drawn between sexual repression and the colonization of Africa. This act also portrays homosexuality, adultery, and racism.
The second act is set in London in the year 1980. None of the actors reprise their roles from the first act, although several of the original characters are still featured. This shows the characters being more defiant. While Act One satirized them trying to fit into what was expected, Act Two shows them trying to define themselves on their own terms. We see open homosexuality in contrast to the repression in the first act. The women leave their husbands and attempt to live on their own. This act ends on an empowering note with characters claiming their sexual independence and identity.
While the play was certainly comedic, it also had its moving moments. The topics covered by the play are heavy, and the more dramatic moments were taken seriously when called for. There is a particularly tense and serious moment when we see the young son of the family call the African servant “boy.” There is still confusion and dysfunction within the relationships of the second act.
Cloud Nine made for an enjoyable night and provided audiences with plenty to think about. The cast (Sam Bertken, James Villar, Cameron Schneberger, Grace Gilmore, Jane Huffman, Anya Opshinsky, Fiona Carey, and Hutch Pimental) was fantastic and committed to the risqué nature of the play charmingly. The theatre program at K College features ample talent, and although it is too late to see Cloud Nine now, there is a new play put on every quarter.