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Cloud 9

Caryl Churchill

Act I, Scene 2

Act I, Scene 1

Act I, Scene 3

Summary

Mrs. Saunders enters an "open space," followed by Clive, who has been chasing her. He chides her for causing him enormous sexual frustration. She tells him that she had expected more mature hospitality, arguing that in spite of their past sexual contact she still has a right to say no. However, when Clive draws near and works his way under her skirt, she cannot resist the opportunity for pleasure and ultimately gives in. Clive quickly reaches orgasm and comes out from under her, leaving her unsatisfied. Unconcerned with her frustration, he hurries off to make it back to the Christmas picnic. Mrs. Saunders follows.

Clive arrives last to the picnic, meeting the family to open a celebratory bottle of champagne. After a toast to the Queen, Betty and Ellen toss a ball as the men look on with amusement. Edward disrupts the game so that he can play with Harry and Clive. Now, the women are spectators. When Edward demonstrates poor ball-tossing ability, Clive scolds him harshly and their game breaks apart. Maud proposes that the family members play hide and seek instead, and, once Harry gives his approval of the new game, they begin. Harry and Clive remain behind, with Joshua guarding the scene with gun in hand.

When Harry goes to find the women, Joshua reveals to Clive that the stable boys have been behaving suspiciously, again betraying his fellow natives. Joshua continues, telling Clive of the tryst between Betty and Harry. Clive exits quickly, ostensibly to "hide." Betty and Harry race back to "base," and before Maud catches up, Betty suggests that she and Harry elope. Harry leaves briefly and then hurries back with Edward. Betty proposes that Edward accompany Harry to look for the others. Edward and Harry run off again.

Betty urges her mother to go home, but Maud protests, claiming that she has a responsibility to stay. Harry re-enters saying he cannot find anyone. Betty calls for Joshua and eventually convinces Maud to allow Joshua to take her home. Joshua and Maud then leave for the house. Taking advantage of a brief private moment, Harry tells Betty that she should stay home with her family instead of joining him on his expeditions. Betty goes as Edward enters.

Edward tells Harry of his dreams of adventure with Harry. Edward then offers Harry one of his mother's necklaces. Harry asks him to put it back. Abruptly, Edward blurts out that he loves Harry and that he wants to do "what we did" when Harry was last at Clive's home. Harry calls such activity sinful, but agrees to do it anyway. Edward asks to see and touch Harry's penis. Harry declines, and they decide to go in search of the others again.

After Harry and Edward run off, Betty and Ellen enter. Betty, visibly upset, asks Ellen what she thinks of Harry Bagley. Ellen gives her approval of Harry. Edward returns, believing he has "found" Betty and Ellen. He encourages the women to continue playing, but when his mother requests that he goes back to Harry, Edward leaves again. Resumes her conversation with Ellen, Betty professes her love for Harry and confesses to having kissed him. Betty and Ellen engage in a reenactment of Betty's kiss with Harry. Betty reacts sharply when Ellen takes the play-acting a bit too far by actually kissing Betty. Betty continues to lament her forbidden love with Harry, as Ellen confesses to Betty, "I worship you."

Clive ushers the entire group onto stage, interrupting an embrace between Ellen and Betty. Clive has Harry perform a "conjuring trick," which involves Harry's pulling a Union Jack (the British flag) from his sleeve. Joshua ends the scene, singing "In the Deep Midwinter," a song Ellen has taught him.

Analysis

Churchill begins to unveil the hypocrisies of colonial and sexual oppression. In this second scene, the farcical superficiality of the first scene begins to break apart, as more and more deviant sexual tastes are revealed. Characters become increasingly explicit about their fantasies. Clive goes as far as to perform oral sex on Mrs. Saunders to open the scene. Clive demands the loyalty of his family and servants, but his actions suggest that he should not be held to this same standard. Ironically, Clive's infidelity involves the one woman in the first act who does not fit the mold of the subservient wife. Through his interaction with Mrs. Saunders, Clive indicates that his role in the oppression of both women and natives might be derived solely from his understanding of British ideals. Just before he disappears under her skirt, Clive tells Mrs. Saunders, "You terrify me. You are dark like this continent." With this metaphor, Churchill implies that both sexual and colonial oppression is a result of the fears of the oppressor.

Mrs. Saunders stands out in the first act not only because of her independence (as a widow who manages her own estate) but also because of her recognition of her own sexual right. She does not give in to Clive's sexual advances because she feels a responsibility as a woman. Instead, she welcomes him under her skirt for her own sexual satisfaction. When Clive researches orgasm before her and stops his business, she reacts angrily: "What about me? Wait." Mrs. Saunders does not reject her own pleasure, as the other women of the act do.

In creating the web of sexual interaction, Churchill introduces the notion of games. In a literal sense, the characters actually begin to play games. First they toss a ball around during the Christmas picnic, and later they move on to hide and seek, a game that covers a large portion of this second scene. The hide and seek game reinforces Churchill's structural and kinetic design of the first act. The continuous entrances and exits of the cast members as the search for one another creates an image of a family out of control, grasping for and chasing one another, but unable to hold on to each other for very long. The parallel between the actual game of hide and seek and the personal "games" that the characters play with one another becomes clear when Betty, alone with Harry for a moment during the game, asks, "Can't we ever be alone?" When Harry rejects this offer, Betty decides to hide again, implying her retreat from accepting her true feelings back to her guise of loyal mother and wife. When Betty later finds a moment alone with Ellen, she remarks, "Ellen, I don't want to play any more," suggesting her fatigue with the whole process of subverting her desires to live up to Clive's expectations. The games in Scene two also serve the practical purpose of allowing Churchill to move the plot along quickly, saying a lot in a relatively short time. The rapid cadence of entrances and exits appears natural and unforced in the context of the hide and seek game.

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