Written by Chloe Moss This Wide Night is set in England and explores the stories of two women trying to rediscover life on the 'outside' since their release from prison.
Marie's (Claire Sara) doing great, living on her own in a 'studio' which is really a bedsitter, and holding down a job at the local pub, and keeping clean, despite the temptations. She is wise enough to leave her previous life behind, and young enough to make a good life, if she stays on the wagon.
By surprise Lorraine (Sancia Robinson) arrives on Marie's doorstep unannounced – because she promised too when she got out. It's a shock for Marie, and she's not quite sure whether she can live with Lorraine, even though they were cellmates for three years.
Claire Sara as Marie in 'This Wide Night' photo courtesy of Green Light Theatre
Two women, two different generations, both familiar with the welfare justice system. Marie is not sure what to make of the relationship – is Lorraine a mate, a lover, a mother, a friend…or just another desperate crim? Can she trust her? Will she ruin everything Marie has worked hard to maintain?
It's clear Lorraine is scatty. Drug addiction, trauma and mental illness affect the brain's ability to control emotion and reactions. It's just part of the deal. Lorraine takes up a lot of space in this tiny bedsitter, with her energy and anxiety.
It's a big change, being out, as Lorraine has not lived in the real world for 24 years. That's what a murder charge will do. It's hard for Lorraine to think of what to do next, when she's never had this freedom before, and she's used to being told what to do from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year, and is closely monitored and controlled. What's worse is now Lorraine is responsible for managing her own meds, getting her own food, finding clothes and a job – and who wants to employ an ex-prisoner who has done 24 years for murder?
Sancia Robinson as Lorraine in 'This Wide Night' - photo courtesy of Green Light Theatre
Lorraine doubles over in panic, when she receives a letter from her boy Ben, who she hasn't seen since he was six years old. But it's good news – Ben wants to meet her. What will he think of her? Will it be a once-off? What has Ben been doing all these years? Is he okay? Did he turn out okay?
Marie is happy to share her single fold-out bed with Lorraine for a night or two. But after that, Lorraine will have to try and find her own accommodation. Otherwise, anything could happen. Maybe they will be co-dependent or get back on the gear together, or worse, start reoffending. That's a big risk for Marie.
This Wide Night is a play about two women both trying to navigate the world after 'spending time' in the criminal justice system. Both Lorraine and Marie are haunted by memories and try to remember and hold on to any part of their childhood which may have been good. Lorraine wants to go on a holiday – may be down to Brighton Beach just to feel the sand between her toes. She's never been to a beach…and she's never danced, and she's over 40 years of age. Marie is still young enough to make something of her life – but can she do it without falling off the wagon?
Directed by Elias Jamieson Brown and produced by Ryan Stewart, This Wide Night is a believable and naturalistic portrayal of the realities facing anyone leaving prison, experiencing freedom and participating in the real world. Co-producers and actors Claire Sarah and Sancia Robinson, have done excellent groundwork to embody the characters of Marie and Lorraine with authenticity and love.
Lorraine and Marie in 'This Wide Night' - photo courtesy of Green Light Theatre
The themes of love, loyalty, and forgiveness feature strongly in this play, and provide life lessons for all of us on the outside. Both Marie and Lorraine challenge each other about personal flaws and' hold up the mirror', trying to help each other confront their fears and demons. They are each other's antidote.
The strength, humour, camaraderie and passion Marie and Lorraine show by continuing to fight for life and make positive choices, despite the many obstacles is inspiring. Statistics show life on the outside is hard, and many people re-offend just to return to the structure of prison – but Marie and Lorraine, are not willing to give up their chance at freedom, and a new life.
Marie and Lorraine are starting from scratch, with no apparent family ties or supports, except those provided by the post-release welfare system.
The Burrow is a great choice of venue for the play as it is tiny and intimate, and the audience becomes part of the one-room where Marie and Lorraine live.
The stage management is executed well (Jacinda McLaughlin) considering the challenges of managing a small space with many moving parts and produces the claustrophobic conditions prisoners experience on the 'inside' and the 'outside'. The confines of space also provide a metaphor for Marie and Lorraine's emotional and psychological landscape.
Challenge yourself - go and see This Wide Night by Green Light Theatre and consider supporting www.flatout.org.au, a Victorian homelessness support, outreach and advocacy service for women who have had contact with the criminal justice and/or prison system.