Churchill's 'Cloud Nine' was a turning point in feminist theatre, a blend of both socialist satire and, at times, slapstick farce.
The first act is set in Colonial Africa in the late 19th Century, and brutally mocks the hypocritical Imperialists, with their (seemingly) rigid morals. This act looks at not only the double standards of Victorian culture, but at the effects of colonisation, and the overt sexism of our prudish ancestors. The second act moves the play on by 100 years, and the characters of the first act by 25 years, taking a look at how our attitudes to sex have changed; for example the homosexuality encountered in Act One as 'a disease more dangerous than diphtheria' is now acceptable.
This is certainly a good read - very funny and essential for anyone interested in modern drama, social satire or even feminism, but one can't help that this is a play which needs to be seen on stage rather than read. Firstly the visual jokes are lost - the prudish patriarch Clive disappearing under the skirt of independent lady Mrs Saunders, the fact that a woman is played by a man, a black servant by a white, and a young girl by a doll. The effects of the cross-gender cross-racial parts aren't nearly as funny off the stage, ditto many of the fabulous one-liners; 'You don't do it with the natives, Harry? My God, what a betrayal of the Queen.'
Churchill's play will, however, remain a masterpiece, and needs to be read by anyone with an interest in feminist theatre.