Chloë Moss’ 2008 play about two women reunited after getting out of prison is confidently revived by SUDS in Eliza Gearty and Tom Herbert’s searing production. Lorraine (Kitt Barrie) is fresh out of prison after a twelve-year sentence. She turns up on her friend Marie’s (Lucy Skinner) doorstep. Their friendship is gradually rekindled as they navigate the pressures of post-prison life seemingly without any rehabilitative help from the authorities.
Crucially, both actors complement each other well. Their friendship seems completely genuine and the production is all the better for it.
Moss wrote the play as a commission for Clean Break – a company that works with women in and around the legal system – and you can tell. Lorraine and Marie feel very much like real women tragically let down by the bureaucratic structures designed to protect them. Stylistically, This Wide Night shares a moving, brutal realism with other Clean Break commissions, most notably Vivienne Franzmann’s recent Pests. Neither play has much in the way of actual plot and instead let the interactions between their protagonists take centre stage. Where the plays differ is in their use of language: where Pests is explosive and poetic, This Wide Night is more subdued, more ‘real’. Moss’ characters are easy to understand and sympathise with – despite their involvement with drink, drugs and violence, it is Lorraine and Marie’s addiction to each other that drives the play forward.
Their friendship is beautifully observed and the acting does the text justice: Barrie and Skinner ricochet around Marie’s “studio flat” (in reality little more than a bedsit) with great nervous energy. Barrie is superb; her clenched fists and taut delivery eventually give way to a softer side as she confides in Marie about her son. Every movement is poised but controlled; her speech – simple yet smart, hard yet moving – is pitch perfect. Skinner is in every way Barrie’s equal and portrays how Marie’s confident façade crumbles in the face of her old friend with heart-breaking passion. Crucially, both actors complement each other well. Their friendship seems completely genuine and the production is all the better for it.
It’s not a perfect production – it takes too long to get going and the frequent scene changes, invariably taking place in near black-out, could be slicker – but on the whole SUDS delivers an immediate and powerful experience. This Wide Night isn’t always easy to watch, but it remains a rewarding piece that shines with the humanity of its characters.