Theatre review: This Wide Night, Glasgow

Former prisoner pals Jayd Johnson and Elaine C Smith end up sharing a bedsit on the outside, with mixed results
Former prisoner pals Jayd Johnson and Elaine C Smith end up sharing a bedsit on the outside, with mixed results
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COMING out of prison brings the promise of freedom, a big concept with even bigger implications. But freedom is a lot more elusive than it looks for the two women in Chloe Moss’s two-hander, directed by David Greig in a new production at the Tron.

This Wide Night - Tron, Glasgow

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Lorraine (Elaine C Smith), newly released after serving a 12-year sentence, turns up, bag in hand, on the doorstep of her former cellmate Marie (Jayd Johnson), calling in a favour offered inside.

In Marie’s cramped bedsit, they begin an intricate dance of emotions, attracting and repelling one another, and ultimately clinging together, each the other’s only point of refuge in a big, wide, hostile world.

The ground in Moss’s play is continually shifting. Does Marie have a job in a pub or is she slipping back towards connections with a violent, criminal past? Can Lorraine really forge a relationship with the son she put up for adoption all those years ago? Hopes flit across their limited horizons – a holiday in North Berwick, a life “going straight” – but each fresh possibility seems more elusive than the last.

Smith’s excellent, understated performance as Lorraine uses caustic one-liners to mask bigger insecurities and a darker, deeper strand of temper which may point to what put her in prison in the first place.

Johnson moves between a manic, childlike energy and a desperate defensive vulnerability, dancing on the edge of despair.

Moss’s play is dense, intricate, subtle. It seems to require both a measure of claustrophobia, created by Karen Tennent’s naturalistic bedsit set, and breathing space, which is added in this production by Gordon McIntyre’s new soundtrack, haunting the spaces between the scenes. (Choosing to symbolise Marie’s journeys beyond the bedsit with a washroom area to the left seems to dilute this intensity somewhat.)

This could be a play about the inadequacy of support for prison-leavers, but Moss’s spotlight is on the relationship of two damaged women, driven together by the stark knowledge that neither has anyone else. Complex emotional drivers – Marie’s longing for a mother, and Lorraine’s for a child – force them into roles neither is adequately equipped for.

By choosing not to spell out the damage in their backgrounds, Moss creates complex, fractured characters who are all the more believable. But spending time in their world is uncomfortable, and, one suspects that the stronger the production, the more uncomfortable it is.

Seen on 25.02.14

• This Wide Night is at the Tron until 15 March