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Cloud 9

Caryl Churchill

Act II, Scene 2

Act II, Scene 1

Act II, Scene 3–4

Summary

Edward tends his garden as his lover Gerry looks on from a park bench. They argue like an old married couple about Gerry's staying out too late and never checking in. Gerry breaks from the conversation to address the audience. He tells a story about giving oral sex to a stranger on a train and then growing disappointed when the man wanted to talk.

Cathy hops on the swing and starts into another of her poems. She finishes the poem and leaves. Martin, Victoria, and Betty walk into the park. Martin yells at Tommy offstage as Betty and Victoria discuss Betty's divorce. Betty tells Victoria that she is afraid of life alone. Betty sits on the bench. Martin speaks to Victoria about the pros and cons of her taking a job in Manchester. He displays some insecurity about her leaving, wondering what they will do with the house and what might become of their son Tommy.

Lin and Cathy stroll into the park as Martin finishes his speech. Cathy chats about wanting to have tea. Martin decides to take up his conversation with Victoria again, arguing that her "liberation" has caused her to cry too often. Cathy interrupts Martin by shooting Victoria with her cap gun. Cathy tells Victoria to fall over. Cathy tells her that falling over is what The Dead Hand Gang always insists that Cathy do.

When Cathy leaves, Martin launches into another speech. He tells Victoria, "My one aim is to give you pleasure," but he implies frustration because of not being able to do so. He encourages her to continue experimenting with bisexuality, but remains "insulted" by her indecision. They leave.

Betty and Lin, who have remained on the park bench all along, begin to discuss children and parenting. Betty worries about Lin being a single mother as Lin asserts her independence and ability to raise Cathy alone. Martin and Victoria return. Still frustrated, Martin continues to nag Victoria with talk of sex. When Martin and Victoria reach Lin and Betty, Martin agrees to walk Betty home to avoid any sort of confrontation with Lin.

With Martin out of sight, Victoria and Lin embrace. Victoria asks Lin a series of questions in search of assurances that Lin loves her. Lin suggests that Victoria leave Martin, but Victoria considers her request "silly." Lin takes offense when Victoria calls her "inconsistent." In arguing with Victoria, Lin reveals that she has just learned of her brother's death in Belfast. Cathy runs in, having heard the last part of the conversation and asks who has been killed. Lin attempts to take Cathy home, but Cathy resists. They fight, Lin's earlier frustrations continuing to build, and Lin hits Cathy. Cathy runs off, and Lin turns to Victoria to embrace.

As tensions ease, Lin and Victoria realize that Tommy is missing. They begin calling for him, and Cathy returns. Cathy offers little help at first, but later spots Tommy in the bushes during their search for him. Lin convinces Cathy to come home, and they reconcile with a hug. Victoria, Lin and Cathy leave the park.

Edward and Gerry come into the park, arguing again about Gerry's lack of commitment to their relationship. Gerry suggests that Edward is faking his femininity, but Edward insists that he enjoys playing the feminine role in the relationship. Gerry breaks up with Edward and leaves. Victoria arrives, and, seeing her brother distraught, holds his hand to comfort him. Edward states that he would rather be a woman and says that he thinks he is a lesbian.

Analysis

In distinguishing the second act from the first, Churchill borrows a theatrical device from Bertolt Brecht: at certain points, the characters "alienate" themselves from the story of the play to address the audience with a monologue. Gerry's monologue in this scene allows the audience to see what makes Gerry tick. In relating the story of his sexual encounter on a train in graphic detail, Gerry defines himself as an unabashed homosexual, confident in his role as a sexual being. The monologue serves several structural purposes. First, it allows Churchill to add dimension to the characters without having to tie the new information into the present drama of the play. Second, the monologue is used as a transitional tool. In this case, Gerry's speech carries the play from a conversation between Gerry and Edward to scene with Martin, Victoria, Betty and Cathy. Third, the monologue gives the tempo of the play some variety. Gerry's speech is slower and more fluid than the short back-and-forth of the preceding dialogue. Theatrically, the alienation technique grants an audience the experience of having a character expose the underpinnings of the play. Gerry offers his view of the world of the play.

Scene two also offers a more thorough definition of Martin. Thematically, Martin represents a transition between the old and the new. As the only straight male in the second act, Martin might be viewed as a symbol of traditional values, but he insists that he is progressive, that he favors the empowerment of women, telling Victoria, "Whatever you want to do, I'll be delighted." However, Martin's rhetoric masks his actions. While he favors Victoria's liberty in theory, his long-winded lectures and constant talk of sex are in fact oppressive. Martin's claim that he strives only to give Victoria pleasure is a stark contrast to Clive's denial of Mrs. Saunders right to orgasm, but Martin might not be as far from Clive as one might think from a quick glance at the text. Martin goes on to say that Victoria's emotional instability "insults" him, implying his need to control Victoria in some way. He is "insulted" that she cannot be the modern woman he wishes her to be. Martin faces the difficult challenge of empowering Victoria while keeping some status for himself.

Betty, like her daughter, continues her struggle to define herself apart from Clive. Through Betty, Churchill argues that a woman's empowerment is not without negative consequences. As overbearing as Clive was, he did provide comfort and protection. He also allowed Betty to exist without confronting her shortcomings as a woman. Betty tells Lin that women "spoil things for themselves with their emotions." Churchill's feminism is not blind. She argues that any group of people has its problems and that achieving liberation will involve one accepting those problems in seeking an identity. In this scene, Betty acts hesitant to start the painful journey of becoming a woman, not just becoming a wife and mother.

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