A prison sentence doesn't end when you leave jail. For the newly free woman, life after release can be just as much a prison outside the jail walls. Former inmate Marie (Zawe Ashton) spends hours afraid and alone inside her bedsit, only venturing out at night to work. So when her former cellmate, 50-year-old Lorraine (Maureen Beattie), turns up on her doorstep after her release, Marie doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms.
But the mutual bond that bound them together in prison reasserts itself in the outside world, a place far more frightening and precarious than the secure world of prison. Will their relationship, where it's not always clear who is the more needy, prove a source of succour as they try to start afresh? Or is their co-dependency merely a reflection of their inability to cope on their own in a cruel and demanding world?
One of the pleasures of ChloŽ Moss's play for Clean Break, which scooped this year's Susan Smith Blackburn prize, is that it deals as much in ambiguities as it does in well-worn certainties. The scenario may sometimes be a mite predictable, but the writing never is: it's tender as a wound and full of emotional texture that makes it utterly believable, and it ensures that what might seem over-familiar comes across as entirely fresh.
The detail, often tragicomic, is good too: whether it's the cellmate who tried to "do herself in with a kneelength sock" or Marie's envy of the primary school contemporary whose mum worked in Greggs and "put cream cakes in her packed lunch". The acting is right up there with the best in this little play with a big, bruised heart.
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Guardian: This Wide Night | Theatre review
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