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A CurtainUp London London Review
This Wide Night

by Tim Newns

It was so hard after you went, Marie. I didn't say much when you used to come in because I was just wanting to get on with it but God it did me in. My little mate leaving me. Sorry.— Lorraine
Recast and restaged, Clean Break 's latest production This Wide Night returns to the Soho Theatre after touring women's prisons nationwide. Clean Break is a company that concentrates its work on women who have been affected by the criminal justice system. This play is no exception as it is based on real life experiences the playwright, ChloŽ Moss, has collected from her research at HMP Cookham Wood.

Marie, an ex con, is trying to put her life back on track when her old cellmate Lorraine unexpectedly arrives at her flat. With no one else to turn to and nowhere else to stay Lorraine turns to Marie to help piece her life back together. The close bond and friendship they formed in prison is tested to its limits as Lorraine's new found freedom seems to have an adverse effect on Marie.

Maureen Beattie and Zawe Ashton play Lorraine and Marie respectively. Both give quite remarkable performances, captivating the audience throughout. Beattie's Lorraine is so authentic and watchable you even become quite enamoured with her quirky characteristics that often provide the only light-hearted moments of the piece. Lorraine is essentially a very sad and tragic character and Beattie ensures her plight draws the utmost compassion from the audience. Ashton's intense and harsh Marie provides a great counterpart to Lorraine, keeping us constantly on edge and unsure as to when she may lose her temper or lash out.

Lucy Morrison's intelligent and perhaps subtle direction takes the audience on a genuine character journey. In particular Marie's harsh exterior is gradually broken away to reveal quite a distraught individual with Lorraine almost her opposite progressing from the helpless to the helper. The memorable shower scene is a perfect example of a glimpse into Marie's desperate situation providing the audience with a good moment of reflection. ChloŽ Lamford's set of a dingy furniture-stricken flat also helps to instil a strong sense of hopelessness and sorrow. Water is quite prominent in the production with some "real life" rain making the outside world just as gloomy and depressing as the inside.

ChloŽ Moss's play is a sympathetic and very real portrayal of the life women face coming out of prison. The complexity of the two characters and the understanding of their situation are testimonies to Moss's ability to create such high-powered drama. If you didn't get the chance to see this stunning play first time round then this is another opportunity to witness some powerful acting combined with some very real, thought provoking new writing.

This Wide Night
Written by ChloŽ Moss
Directed by Lucy Morrison

Starring: Maureen Beattie and Zawe Ashton
Design: ChloŽ Lamford
Lighting: Anna Watson
Sound: Becky Smith
Running time: 90 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking to 5th December 2009
Produced by Clean Break
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 26th November 2009 performance at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE.

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