An Overview of the Major Characters in Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill

“Cloud Nine” is a two-act play by British playwright Caryl Churchill, first performed at Dartington College of Arts in 1979. Act one of the play is set in Victorian times in a British colony in Africa. Act two is set in a London in 1979. Yet, unexplainably, only twenty-five years have passed for the characters.

Clive is the first act’s protagonist. He is, seemingly, the very model of a British aristocrat. He puts his duty to Queen and country first and assumes that those that rely on him will obey him. Clive accepts as true that gender-roles are well defined and expects his son, Edward, to be a man’s man, like him. Clive is an overt racist who believes the Africans are “savages” who can only be civilized by British discipline. Ironically, Clive has an affair with Mrs. Saunders, ignoring the infidelity that he imposes on his wife, Betty.

Betty is Clive’s wife and in the first act is played by a man. She spends almost the whole first act being confused and indecisive. She is totally reliant on Clive to provide her guidance and direction. Betty, however, has a sense of adventure. She thinks of a relationship with Harry, the explorer, and wonders about what another kind of life would be like. In Act Two, a new Betty, portrayed by another actor, has gotten a feeling of independence and has evolves into the play’s main protagonist. The second act Betty is older, gives long lectures and offers spontaneous comments.

Edward is Clive’s and Betty’s son. From a young age, he finds he is attracted to men and likes girly things. In Act One, this role is played by a woman. Edward keeps his true feelings hidden in fear of disturbing his conservative father. Over time those qualms fade, but do not vanish. In Act Two the older Edward, now played by a man, discovers that he is well adapted to the role of wife and mother, rather than husband and father. He prefers a steady relationship to sleeping around and often has a hard time getting what he wants.

Victoria is Clive’s and Betty’s daughter. In the first act, Victoria is played by a manikin. But in the second act she becomes a central figure. Victoria tends to depend on others but sometimes is strongly self-reliance. She is non-confrontational and prefers to be the peace-maker.

Harry Bagley is a British explorer and symbolizes the British ideals of courage and discovery. But his fame as an adventurer hides his sexual deviantcy. His presence begins to bring out the deep sexual yearnings of Clive’s family. Finally, Harry is a victim of own his action. He gives up his freedom to avoid persecution for homosexual acts.

Mrs. Saunders is a widow and is independent. She is fearless in wielding her sexuality, and she demands respect from men.

Lin is a brash and open lesbian. She is fearless in letting others know what she thinks. Beneath her bellicose exterior, Lin is unsure she is a good mother. She is openly crass and crude.


Honor in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

“For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men”

Anthony from Julius Caesar act 3 scene 2

The theme of honor and what are honorable actions runs through Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  In Act One, Cassius discusses with Brutus the idea of honor and whether it would be honorable for Caesar to be made king.  Planting in Brutus’ mind doubts about Caesar and if it would be the honorable thing to support Caesar if he tries to make himself king.

For Cassius and later Brutus the honorable thing is to murder Caesar because Caesar plans the ultimate dishonor to the state; to destroy the Republic and make himself sole ruler.  To the conspirators, it is better that one man should die so that the Roman Republic might live, even though normally assassinating a fellow Senator would be a cowardly and very dishonorable act.   To prove that he himself is honorable and that killing Caesar is a honorable, even patriotic, act, Cassius relates to Brutus how he once saved Caesar’s life by rescuing him from drowning in the Tiber.  Therefore, if he merely wanted Caesar dead he would have let him drown, but instead Cassius courageously risked his own life to save Caesar’s.

However, Cassius soon proves himself the hypocrite when in Act Four, Scene Three he disputes with Brutus over the condemnation of a friend convicted of bribery. Now Cassius is placing his friendship with a person over the good of the state. The audience can see Cassius concept of honor is very flexible.

The flipside of this is of course Anthony’s famous speech in Act 3 Scene Two.  Where in praising the conspirators for their murder of Caesar, Anthony uses their hypocritical concept that private honor and public actions are not one and the same. In short, while the conspirators may be honorable men, with honorable and commendable motivations their public actions are the most dishonorable and cowardly.

Further, for Anthony’s part, he must avenge the death of his mentor and friend, Caesar, by seeking out and punishing the conspirators. If he does not act and punish Brutus and Cassius, or die trying, than he is just as dishonorable and more importantly, dishonored, as the murderers themselves.

Lastly, by having both Cassius and Anthony profess and act on what they think are honorable motivations, Shakespeare is telling the audience that honor is both universal and inflexible. Honorable motivation cannot lead to dishonorable acts, for if the acts are cowardly and dishonorable, then so are the motives behind them.

Shakespeare Plays that are Suitable for School Drama Productions

For high school drama productions of Shakespeare, the facility sponsor must consider a number of factors.  First, the cast of characters the play should be balanced as much as possible between male and female roles. Shakespeare wrote some great roles for women; Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra to name just two, but some of his plays are mostly male driven, like “Julius Caesar” and “Henry V”.

Next, consider the potential casting pool. Don’t try and pull off “Richard III” unless you have an actor that can manage that role.  Or even “Romeo and Juliet” unless you have a couple that could manage those roles.

Last, consider “updating” the play.  Recently movies that have “modernized” the Bard of Avon include “Romeo and Juliet”, “Richard III”, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” and “Coriolanus” not to mention the BBC “Shakespeare Retold” series.  Updating the plays setting and context is something that should be considered to make it more relevant to today (without messing with the excellent language).

“Romeo and Juliet” is considered the most accessible of Shakespeare’s plays to high school students and typically it is the first Shakespeare production which introduces students to the Bard’s works. The themes of love and angst are considered accessible to the age group.  Also the modernized version is available through the recent movie.

“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Shakespeare’s more accessible comedies for a teenager, with the rumor mill aspect and well as the Dogberry’s butchered speeches to keep everyone entertained. Fairly easy to produce with a small cast of only eight major roles and 11 smaller ones.

“King Lear” is another play that teenager could easily understand; all about parental approval and sibling rivalry. Also the parts of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia offer some prime female roles.  Also with only 15 speaking roles the cast is small enough to manage.

“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is considered Shakespeare’s first play and has a very small cast and could easily be staged in a small theater.  Also with some of the smaller roles a female actress could easily be cast to help balance the cast. Also, the play could be updated to the twentieth century.

“Love’s Labor’s Lost” has a well-balanced cast between male and female roles. The theme of unrequited and lost love should be well received by a high school cast and audience.  Also, this play was recently “modernized” in a movie which could provide a model for a high school production.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” also has a well balanced cast for male and female actors, but the cast is large and that could make it difficult to stage. But otherwise this play would be excellent for a high school production.

In general the Histories are best avoided because of the largely male cast and also the accessibly of plays about war and power politics might be thematically difficult for a teenage cast.  Otherwise many of the Bard’s comedies, tragedies and “problem” plays are suitable for a high school production.

Play Analysis: “Hobsons Choice” by Harold Brighouse

The title of the play “Hobson’s Choice” comes from the phrase meaning a choice which is really no choice at all. Written by Harold Brighouse the play was first produced in 1916 on the stage. It was also adapted to the screen and TV at least three times. The play has also been turned into a ballet.

Plot Summary

Henry Hobson is a widower, who owns a prosperous shoemaking shop in Salton, a suburb of Manchester England. While Hobson drinks with his fellow Masons at a nearby pub, he forces his three daughters: Maggie, Alice and Vickey, to work at the shop for no pay. Also in Hobson’s employ is William Mossop, an exceptionally talented boot-maker, who is a bit simple-minded. Hobson treats Mossop badly and hardly pays him at all. In short, Hobson is a drunken and petty tyrant.

One day, a wealthy patron of the shop demands to know who made her shoes. Hobson admits it is Will Mossop. The customer, Mrs. Hepworth, is so impressed with the work that she demands all her and her daughter’s boots will now be made only by Mossop. Maggie the oldest and hardest working daughter, also the one least likely to marry, sees a chance, she marries Will and with a loan of 100 pounds from Mrs. Hepworth sets up a rival shop, depriving Hobson of much of his business.

After losing Maggie, Hobson decides to hold on to his other two daughters by not giving them dowries. Thru a series of missteps, usually drunken ones, Hobson is sued and forced to settle money on his two youngest daughters which allows them to marry.

Now alone, with his shop failing, Hobson drinks even more. In desperation he goes to each of his daughters to ask them to take care of him. In turn, each refuses. Finally Maggie agrees to take care of him, so long as he gives his business to her and Will Mossop and Hobson is only a silent partner.

Play analysis

Brighouse’s play has themes of choice and free will. There are also elements of family responsibility and what part good luck plays in peoples’ lives.

Henry Hobson’s situation is the result of his own poor choices in life. At any time during the play he could choose a different course of action and thereby repaired the relationship he has with his daughters. As with Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, perhaps Hobson is depending on mere family loyalty, rather than on making good choices for himself and his daughters.

The element of good luck is represented by Mrs. Hepworth and her loan to Maggie. Further, Hobson’s misadventures that force him to provide dowries for his other two girls are put down to good fortune as well.

“Hobson’s Choice” is ultimately a restatement of the line from “Julius Caesar”: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. . .”