Fine Arts & the Creative Process: Theatre Emphasis
April 26, 2012
Cloud 9 Critical Response
The play Cloud Nine examines questions of gender identity, sexuality and individual freedom, as they exist within two traditional, oppressive ideological models: colonial imperialism and masculine supremacy. By contrasting these worlds of political and sexual dominance, the play draws a parallel between the paralysis exacted by both frameworks upon the development and expression of unique, authentic personhood. The play dramatizes the argument in startling fashion by challenging the touchstones of theatrical convention. Specifically, it defies usual methods of depiction, for some of the main ...view middle of the document...
It is through her style of fragmentation, redefinition and inversion of gender roles that the play can carefully examine the subject and constructs a powerful argument, in this case for feminism.
The manner in which I believe the play arrives at the greater, solid statement is multi-fold. On the most immediate level, the play is attempting to deconstruct the concept of “gender,” divorce it from an erroneously assumed organic origin or sex in order argue that gender is neither essential nor biological. Rather, it is a social construct reflecting and sustained by a greater ideological framework. Therefore, the play must avoid treating the characters as fully realized independent persons, and represent them instead as vessels for the articulation of accepted social-sexual mores. The play accomplishes this representation and lays the groundwork for the primary artistic and political argument, in the first act of the play.
Act One of Cloud 9 takes place both literally and figuratively in a British colony in Africa during the Victorian era, and featuring main characters whose gender is fixed but true sexual identity censored. In this first act, the play engages the distinct dramatic approaches, the fragmented gender-play, in order to portray the characters’ sexual confusion. A man plays Clive’s wife, Betty; and a woman plays Edward, Clive’s son. In addition to the obvious anti-characterization choices, the dialogue in Act One further attests to the notion that freedom of personal expression is silent within a male-dominated social context. Specifically, the dialogue in this act sounds highly contrived and controlled, as if filtered through the eyes, ears and lips of masculine forces. Absent from the subjugated characters, as a mark of their “slave” status, is a clear connection between speaker and content of speech. For example, Ellen, Edward’s governess, is one of the first sexually bold and progressive characters we encounter. She harbors, and attempts to express, romantic feelings for Betty. When she tries to profess this love, Betty seems completely ignorant to both Ellen’s innuendo and her more overt actions. In Scene Two of the first act, Ellen very deliberately, without hesitation or ambiguity, kisses Betty. But Betty simply bypasses this startling occurrence; she neither questions nor directly addresses the potential meaning behind the kiss. Instead, like a conditioned subject, Betty returns to the script of the patriarchy, discussing her adulterous but more normative feelings for Harry. Ellen then attempts to place herself in the role occupied by Harry, to stand as a lover for Betty. However, Betty cannot sense the depth of feeling behind these lines, and mistakes Ellen’s words as merely an assertion of friendship. It is inevitable that Ellen will never speak or engage honestly with Betty, for the latter is not a genuine and organically feeling person. She is the product of ideology. Betty and similar subjugated characters are disconnected...