The Second Woman is the internationally acclaimed 24 hour long project coming to the Young Vic as part of LIFT 2020. The project comes from fascinating origins and is a concept that is set to astonish and mesmerise audiences. We sat down with creators, writers and directors Nat Randall & Anna Breckon to find out more about this pioneering project and what we can expect when it comes to London.
Tell us about The Second Woman. What’s the show and what’s its history?
The Second Woman is a 24-hour performance in which a female-identifying performer repeats a single scene 100 times with 100 male-identified participants ranging in age, background and acting ability. The scene is inspired by John Cassavetes’ meta-theatrical film Opening Night and involves a couple negotiating a long-term relationship that has lost its creativity, romance and vitality.
The Second Woman has been presented at 5 major Australian Festivals; Next Wave; Dark Mofo; Liveworks; Perth Festival and Adelaide Festival. It has also been presented 3 times internationally, at the opening of the contemporary performance space Weiwuying in Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Toronto at Harbourfront Centre, and at BAM in New York.
By setting up a situation in which strangers relate, The Second Woman explores the ways in which gender privilege and power expresses itself through feeling. Much of The Second Woman’s political and emotional potency resides in the show’s ability to demonstrate the subtle ways in which gender power hierarchies operate at the level of everyday emotional experience and ordinary social interaction. The capacity for The Second Woman to do this depends on the onstage dynamic accurately expressing local gender relations in their cultural specificity and complexity. For this reason, we have committed to finding a local performer for each international presentation of this work.
What does it mean to do the show in London? And at the Young Vic?
We are super excited to bring The Second Woman to London to be performed at The Young Vic. In our time in London, we were able to experience LIFT’s and the Young Vic’s investment in ideas, innovation, politics and process. We had lengthy discussions around the execution of each element of the show and how it works to produce meaning and a feeling experience for the audience. Not only did we get a sense of the care and consideration with which every aspect of the show will be handled but that both teams consider politics, ethics and art as central to the production process. This is a very exciting space for us to be in. We are very honoured to be part of a show that brings these two cultural forces together.
What have you discovered so far?
In our research trips for The Second Woman we spend more time meeting people in a particular context than looking at the sites. The questions the show poses around gendered and culturally specific feeling means that questions around culturally specific behaviour and emotion become prominent in our discussions with people in each space. Through conversations about what the show may reveal in London, and our experience of being there, we have the sense that generally people in London can be quite polite but can also be raw and on the surface in their expression of feelings. This, we feel, will lead to a really dynamic theatrical experience.
What do you think might happen this June?
Based on the people we met on our research trip as well as LIFT's and the Young Vic’s investment in seeking out a diverse range of participants to perform in the show, we feel this will be a production that demonstrates the broadest range of emotional experiences we have seen so far. With the high calibre of actors being considered for this part, we are super excited to see an English performer at the top of her game taking on the immense task of performing for 24hrs.
Anything else on your mind?
We are super excited to return to London in June 2020 to work with a local crew to make this very unique version of The Second Woman.