Cloud Nine Mocks Colonialism and Sexual Repression in 'Sharp Comedy'

<<< Among the actors in (or is that on?) Cloud Nine are (top to bottom): Beth Jugenheimer '98, Claire Gilbert '99, Mary Haddad '98, and Kate McKeon '99.

Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine, a provocative and amusing study of colonialism and sexual politics, will be the Department of Theatre Arts's first mainstage production of the year. It will run October 23-26 in Rooke Theatre.

Set in Victorian Africa and contemporary England, Cloud Nine mocks colonial and sexual repressions in a farce that employs racial and gender cross-casting to make its points. "Churchill is saying that everything traditional and canonical should be subjected to scrutiny," says director and Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Awam Amkpa. "The cross-gender and cross-race casting is her way of talking about how women and so-called third-world people have been represented."

Amkpa, a British-trained director and filmmaker, has studied Churchill's work and has taught Cloud Nine to Mount Holyoke students for the past three years. He's fascinated by the way the play "defies traditional theatre structure and naturalistic representations and has a strong political message." Amkpa emphasizes that Cloud Nine, despite its "heavily fragmented form," is "very funny and accessible for audiences used to seeing mainstream theatre."

He is staging an exuberant production of the play in the British music-hall tradition, using songs and dances. Amkpa specialized in political theatre while completing his doctoral work in Britain, and says he was intrigued by the way music-hall productions were used to present political subjects to Britons in working class clubs. So he created original words and music for songs in addition to those already part of Cloud Nine, giving it a music-hall flair. Instead of a physically constructed set, this production uses sliding screens onto which video images will be projected, adding a multimedia element to the atmosphere.

For tickets, call the box office at x2834 beginning October 20.