This Wide Night, the new play by Chloë Moss tackling the effects of imprisonment on women, debuts at the Soho theatre in late July before embarking on a tour.
Moss’s new drama is the tale of two women trying to start over. When Lorraine is released from prison, she heads straight to Marie’s. They used to share everything inside, but find that the friendship that once kept them strong threatens their new existence on the outside.
This Wide Night opens in London at a time when the government’s stance on women’s imprisonment is being questioned. In 2007, Baroness Corston’s report on vulnerable women in the criminal justice system highlighted the need for a number of changes to a prison system designed for men. At the time, the government accepted 40 out of 43 of the Home Office-commissioned report’s recommendations. The Ministry of Justice’s plan for improving services, however, which was published last month, was met with some scepticism.
Speaking about the importance of Moss’s new play, Lucy Perman MBE, Executive Director of the This Wide Night producers Clean Break, said: “At a time when the Government’s Corston Review has thrown a spotlight on women’s imprisonment and the far reaching detrimental effects it has on women, their families and society, Clean Break’s plays are more relevant than ever. Our plays bring alive the personal stories of women caught up in the criminal justice system and reveal the human cost of such a punitive response.”
This Wide Night, which stars Cathy Owen and Jan Pearson, was written in response to the time Moss spent working with inmates at Cookham Wood prison.
“I had enough material to write 50 different plays,” the playwright said of her experience. “I decided to concentrate on two aspects: the uniqueness of relationships formed in prison – and if they are able to exist in another context; and resettlement – particularly of women who have spent a long time in prison and who are released at a point in their lives when starting afresh can feel like a very hopeless prospect.”
Moss follows playwrights including Tanika Gupta, Lin Coghlan, Bryony Lavery and Winsome Pinnock in accepting a commission from Clean Break, a job described by the Daily Telegraph as “one of the toughest gigs a female playwright can get”.
Founded in 1979 by two women inmates, Clean Break both produces productions inspired by women in the prison system and uses theatre as a way to educate, train and improve lives.
This Wide Night, directed by Lucy Morrison, runs at Soho between 30 July and 9 August (press night 31 July), before embarking on a tour to Newcastle, Plymouth and in prisons.