Set in both colonial Africa and 1970s Britain, Churchill’s role-swapping and cross-gender cast play examines relationships – between women and men, men and men, women and women. According to promotional material, it’s about “work, mothers, Africa, power, children, grandmothers, politics, money, Queen Victoria and sex”.
Fleet (who plays Clive/Cathy) and Menzies (Harry Bagley/Martin) are joined in the cast by Mark Letheren (Joshua/Gerry), Bo Poraj (Betty/Edward), Joanna Scanlan (Maud/Victoria), Sophie Stanton (Ellen/Mrs Saunders/Lin) and Nicola Walker (Edward/Betty). The production is designed by Peter McKintosh, with lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gregory Clarke.
While first night critics all acknowledged Cloud Nine’s deserved reputation as a ground-breaking piece of 1970s theatre, they were divided as to whether it has stood the test of time nearly 30 years on. Some felt that Thea Sharrock’s “smart” and “uncomplicated” revival successfully demonstrates that Churchill’s play is as “provocative” as ever, but others couldn’t see “what all the fuss was about”. There was widespread appreciation of the “beautifully acted” ensemble performances, with particular praise for James Fleet, Tobias Menzies and Nicola Walker.
- by Terri Paddock