In 2005, Carol Churchill's Cloud Nine was withdrawn at the playwright's request from the Royal Court Theatre's 50th Anniversary programme (See News, 24 Nov 2005). Nearly two years on, the play rears its head again in a more positive story, that it will run at the Almeida Theatre this Autumn in a new production directed by Thea Sharrock.

Sharrock - fresh from recent success with Equus, which will transfer to Broadway next year - will direct the new revival after her Gate Theatre-produced remounting of The Emperor Jones opens at the National in August. Former artistic director of the Gate, which she left in April this year, Sharrock’s other credits include A Voyage Round My Father at the Donmar Warehouse, which transferred to the Wyndham’s, and Churchill’s Top Girls at Battersea Arts Centre in 2000, which transferred to the West End in 2002 after a UK tour.

The politically-charged Cloud Nine was first performed at Dartington College of Arts, London, in February 1979, and had its professional premiere in London at the Royal Court later that year, when it was staged by Joint Stock. In 1981, it opened in New York where it played for two years off-Broadway and has since been staged world-wide. One of the UK’s most respected living playwrights, Churchill’s many other plays include Blue Heart, Serious Money, The Skriker, This Is a Chair, Top Girls and A Number. Her play Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? premiered as part of the Royal Court's 50th Anniversary season.

Set in both colonial Africa and modern-day Britain, Caryl Churchill’s landmark play Cloud Nine is about relationships – between women and men, men and men, women and women. It is about sex, work, mothers, Africa, power, children, grandmothers, politics, and money.

This production is designed by Peter McKintosh, with lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gregory Clarke.


Meanwhile, full casting has been announced for the previously-announced Stockard Channing led revival of Clifford OdetsAwake and Sing! (See News ), 22 May 2007. The full cast is: Stockard Channing (Bessie Berger), Trevor Cooper (Uncle Morty), Kieron Jecchinis (Schlosser), Paul Jesson (Myron Berger), Nigel Lindsay (Moe Axelrod), John Lloyd Fillingham (Sam Feinschreiber), John Rogan (Jacob), Ben Turner (Ralph Berger) and Jodie Whittaker (Hennie Berger).

The play will be directed by the Almeida’s artistic director Michael Attenborough, who recently directed the UK premiere production of Theodore Ward’s ‘lost’ 1937 play Big White Fog, which closed last week (30 June 2007).

Odets’ 1935 play tells the story of the Bergers, a lower middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Great Depression. The family, ruled over by strong-willed matriarch Bessie (Channing), long for a better world for themselves. True to life in his depiction of the extreme economic hardships confronted by working-class immigrant families of the time, Odets documents their travails and their hopes, capturing the frenetic, pressured existence in this crowded home.

Trevor Cooper was last seen at the Almeida Theatre in The Late Henry Moss. His other theatre work includes The Tempest for the Royal Exchange Theatre, Playing With Fire for the National Theatre (also directed by Michael Attenborough), By The Bog of Cats at Wyndham’s, and The Lieutenant of Inishmore for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Jodie Whittaker starred as Nadya in Michael Attenborough’s sell-out production of Enemies as well as having played a leading role in Roger Michell’s critically acclaimed film Venus. Her other work has included Ampelisca in Tim Caroll’s Globe production of The Storm and Sue in Neil Labute’s Bash at the Trafalgar Studios.

Awake and Sing! will run from 31 August – 20 October 2007. Designs are by Tim Shortall, with lighting by Paul Pyant and sound by John Leonard.

- by Stuart Denison