This Wide Night, Soho Theatre, London
Wednesday 02 December 2009
Prison doesn't end once the prisoner is expelled through its gates back into the world. Psychological incarceration may persist; the freed person may remain institutionalised. A stint in prison can, of course, be the making of some people. Banged up for defacing library books, Joe Orton developed the detachment and complete disrespect for power and authority that turned him into a formidable comic playwright. On his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, sent for the same offence to another institution, prison had the opposite effect, resulting in an agoraphobia of the soul that made him increasingly claustrophobic to be with and finally leading to his death.
Lorraine and Marie, the released duo in Chloe Moss's sensitive and funny-sad two hander, This Wide Night, are the opposite of Orton and Halliwell in every way. Fifty-something Lorraine and thirty-something Marie did not know one another before becoming cell-mates and now, back in civvy street, they have to grapple with the contradictions of a position that is (from one perspective) very intimate and (from another) irksome, because it's based on something that should be over and done with, but isn't. The scene is Marie's poky bedsit from which she is finding it increasingly difficult to emerge. Concerned about her friend and hoping to take up an offer of co-habitation that Marie is now regretting, Lorraine arrives and the drama of mutual support and reciprocal restriction is played out.
Maureen Beattie and Zawe Ashton, as the older and younger woman respectively, deliver emotionally subtle, gently humorous performances in Lucy Morrison's well-judged production for Clean Break, the company that specialises in plays about women and the vagaries of the legal system.
The writing has a wounded, stoic quality that benefits from, but wears lightly, the fruits of first-hand research. The specificities catch the light. I liked the detail of the cellmate who had attempted to do herself in with "a knee-length sock" – and Moss valuably notices how susceptible to indignities is the life of the ex-prisoner, whether from social workers banging on in their purportedly galvanising jargon about "strength" or from employers who are scarcely out of short trousers and don't understand the difficulties.
To 5 December (020 7478 0100; www.sohotheatre.com)
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees