Skip to main content

Chloe Moss - This Wide Night

When Chloe Moss was commissioned by Clean Break theatre company to spend twelve weeks developing a play from working with inmates in a women's prison, she was initially daunted by the terms laid down for her by the company set up in 1979 by two female prisoners to explore the hidden stories of women prisoners through drama. By the end of the process, things had changed somewhat for the Liverpool-born writer.

The change was more than evident in the play that was born from Moss' experience with Clean Break, This Wide Night, which played at Soho Theatre in 2008 prior to a tour of prisons where some of the women Moss worked with were still housed. With a major new production directed by playwright David Greig about to open at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and featuring Jayd Johnson and Elaine C. Smith in the cast, Moss reflects on the play's origins.

“At first it seemed slightly restrictive.” Moss explains, “Clean Break do one commission a year, and you write something that's for a small, women only cast, and obviously you write something that's based around women who are in the criminal justice system. Once you're involved in it, all of that is actually quite liberating, and by the end of the twelve weeks I could've written fifty or a hundred plays about the experiences of these women.”

Rather than focus on the women's life behind bars, in the play Moss looks at what happens when the women are released. This is done through two women, Marie and Lorraine, who had struck up a friendship while incarcerated. When Marie is released, that appears to be that. Only when Lorraine knocks at Marie's bedsit door are the pair forced to reassess their relationship on the outside world.

“The characters are really an amalgam of all the women I met,” Moss says. “Even before we started, I was really interested in what happened when these women came out of the criminal justice system, and what happened to them. Bonds form between women in prison, but it's hard for them to trust people, so there's a fragility to those bonds, especially when the women get out. Many women lose ties with their children and with their families, and if you're a certain age, it's going to be more difficult to get work when you get out. That's a massive part of your life. I mean, what if you're seventy when you come out, and you've lost all those connections in life that you had? What do you do?”

Women's prison drama has proved an alluring draw over the years, both on stage and on television. Both Within These Walls in the 1970s Prisoner: Cell Block H la few years later, and the more recent Bad Girls captivated huge audiences. If the latter two camped things up somewhat, such an approach was offset by the likes of Rona Munro's stage play, Iron, and the ongoing work done by Clean Break.

While This Wide Night has moved out of the prison walls, Moss' experience of her twelve weeks working with women has made her recognise the importance of dramatising experiences which most people aren't aware of.

“I can only speak from my personal experience,” she says, “but when you scratch the surface, you realise how many women are in prison, and how many of them are in for non-violent crime. The reasons a lot of women are in prison are to do with poverty, drugs or mental health issues. Where these women should be getting health and support, they get locked up instead.. So if you scratch that surface, it feels very Dickensian, and the strength that these women have when they come out and have to try and rebuild their lives is remarkable.”

While Moss stresses that This Wide Night is not a journalistic piece of work, the play's sustaining power has proved something of a benchmark for the writer, whose career began after she was picked up by the Royal Court Young Writer's Group, where she wrote her first professionally produced play, A Day in Dull Armour, in 2002. Commissions for the Royal Court, Manchester's Royal Exchange and Liverpool Everyman followed.

“I'd always wanted to write,” Moss says, “bit I didn't think it was possible to earn a living doing it. My brother's an actor, and he was a big inspiration, really. I went along to the Everyman Youth Theatre a few times, and that made me realise I didn't want to be an actor, and that writing could be another way of telling stories. Then I started going to the theatre more when I did my degree in Manchester, and things took off from there.”

Moss also has extensive TV credits under her belt, with stints on the likes of Hollyoaks, Secret Diary of A Call Girl and more recently on Switch, a fantasy-based comedy drama about four young witches living in contemporary Camden. With further commissions for the Royal Exchange and the Everyman pending, Moss may have moved on as a writer, but it's clear that This Wide Night remains an important piece of work for her.

“I feel incredibly proud of it,” Moss reflects. “It's an emotional thing for me. I have a real affection for it, and it's very close to my heart. Sometimes you look back at some plays and think ' would change that now'. I'm not saying this play is perfect, but it means a lot to me. When we took it round prisons, that was the most important audience for me. Some of the women I'd worked with had been released, but it was obviously still personal to them, and if I hadn't nailed the truth of things, they'd know in ten seconds. You just want to feel that you're respecting them. The most important thing is being truthful. Even though there's a lot of bleakness in the play, I think there's also a lot of hope.”

This Wide Night, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, February 20-March 15.


Chloe Moss – A writer's life

Chloe Moss was born in Liverpool, and studied film at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Moss joined the Royal Court Young Writers Group, where she wrote her first professionally performed play, A Day in Dull Armour, in 2002.

Moss became writer in residence at the Bush theatre, where she wrote How Love Is Spelt in 2004. The following year the play was produced off-Broadway.

For the Royal Exchange Manchester, Moss wrote Christmas Is Miles Away in 2005, and The Way Home for Liverpool Everyman in 2006.

Also in 2006, Moss co-wrote Catch, a collaboration at the Royal Court with four other playwrights; April De Angelis, Laura Wade, Stella Feehily and Tanika Gupta.

This Wide Night was commissioned by Clean Break theatre company, and opened at Soho Theatre in 2008 before touring women's prisons.

In 2012, The Gatekeeper opened at the Royal Exchange Manchester.

For television, Moss has written for Hollyoaks, Secret Diary of A Call Girl, Lip Service and Switch. Moss also wrote the TV film, Frankenstein's Wedding...Live In Leeds, and an episode of Prisoners Wives.

Moss is currently under commission for the Royal Exchange Manchester and Liverpool Everyman.

The Herald, February 18th 2014


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1
1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77)
3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77)
4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77)
5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77)
6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77)
7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77)
8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78)
9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78)
10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79) 
11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79)
12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79) 
13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79)
14. JOLT See Saw (6/79)
15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79)
16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79)
17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79)
18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79)
19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79)
20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79)
21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79)
22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79)
23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79)
24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80)
25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

1. THE REZILLOS I Can’t Stand My Baby (Sensible FAB 18/77) If it wasn’t for T…

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1
1. THE STONE ROSES  - Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3  - Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART  - Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS  - Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY - Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!  - Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS - I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS - In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES  - Everso 10. THE SEERS  - Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND - You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS - We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE  - Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS  - Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND - In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES - Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS  - Justice In Freedom (12" Version)

1. THE STONE ROSES Don’t Stop ( SilvertoneORE1989)
The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds like it. Vocalist Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire met in 1980 at Altrincham Grammar School. With bassist …