After winning the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn prize for her play This Wide Night, Chloe Moss is under commission from London’s Royal Court, Paines Plough and Headlong. She tells Giverny Masso about her second play, How Love Is Spelt, being revived at Southwark Playhouse…
Tell me about How Love Is Spelt?
It’s about a young girl called Peta who leaves Liverpool and moves to London. I can’t really say too much more, as it will spoil the backstory, but it’s really about loneliness and identity and trying to find connections. When I wrote it, I’d moved to London not long before. It’s not autobiographical, but looking back at it now, the idea of being alone and in London really strikes a chord.
How did you get into playwriting?
I moved to London in 2001 and began the Royal Court Young Writers Programme on Simon Stephens’ course. While I was on the course, I wrote a play called A Day in Dull Armour, and they put it on as part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival. I got my agent from that. So a lot happened at once.
What other works have been important in your career?
I’ve done a lot of work with Clean Break, the company that works with women who have experience of the criminal justice system. This Wide Night was probably the standout play. I wrote it after going into prisons and doing workshops, and it had a massive impact on me. The play is about two women called Marie and Lorraine who have been in prison together. After Marie leaves, Lorraine turns up on her doorstep one day following her release. It’s about them trying to create lives for themselves on the outside. We have a play that’s touring at the moment called Sweatbox, which is set in a prison van.
Is there a lack of opportunities for women writers?
Completely. When you look at the figures it’s staggering. That’s why I think the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is so brilliant because it shows there are just so many amazingly talented women. I don’t get why there is such disparity. It seems to be this idea of women not writing big plays, and that’s nonsense. There are loads of brilliant women at the helm now and in positions in theatres where that is changing and there are also some brilliant, feminist men – like Jeremy Herrin at Headlong – who are championing women’s plays. It’s also about revivals. There are so many amazing plays by women that I’d love to see revived.
What are you currently working on?
A play for Paines Plough that will be on next year – and I have commissions from the Royal Court and Headlong as well. The Paines Plough play is about two sisters who grow up with a very troubled childhood and go in very different directions. The Headlong play is about the only woman on a merchant navy ship. The Royal Court play, which is the most embryonic, is about the notion of forgiveness – what do you do if you forgive someone but then retract that forgiveness?
Training: Royal Court Young Writers Programme (2001-02)
First professional role: A Day in Dull Armour at London’s Royal Court (2002)
Agent: Mel Kenyon
How Love Is Spelt runs at Southwark Playhouse from September 4 to 28. Details: southwarkplayhouse.co.uk