The Second Woman starring Ruth Wilson at the Young Vic – feature documentary to be released

A new feature documentary is to be released, capturing this weekend’s epic, one-off performance by Ruth Wilson (Luther, His Dark Materials) of the short play The Second Woman at the Young Vic theatre in London.

The Second Woman play was created and directed by Australian theatre and film artists and directors Anna Breckon and Nat Randall, and co-produced by the Young Vic Theatre and LIFT- London’s international festival of theatre, and produced in association with Ruth Wilson.

The show ran for 24 hours over the weekend at the Young Vic, causing a theatre sensation in London, with queues round the block all night to see Ruth Wilson perform a single break up scene over and over, playing opposite 100 different men, non-binary, and queer people across the 24 hours.

Inspired by John Cassavetes’ 1977 film Opening Night, the scene involves a couple negotiating a long-term relationship that has lost its romance and vitality.

With only brief 15 minute breaks every 2 hours, Wilson played the role of Virginia in every single scene, opposite a series of mostly non-actors who she has never met before, let alone rehearsed with. She had no way of knowing in advance who her co-stars were, nor could she anticipate how they might choose to play the scene. All this while she navigated a combination of adrenaline and exhaustion.

Performing alongside Golden Globe and two-time Olivier Award winner Ruth Wilson, guest actors who showed up to perform included Andrew Scott, Ben Whishaw, Idris Elba, and Aidan Gillen.

With a working title of “The Second Woman”, the documentary will be produced by Fremantle’s new premium documentaries label, Undeniable, and directed by Ursula Macfarlane (Untouchable, Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me), produced and executive produced by Mandy Chang and Linda Brusasco of Fremantle Documentaries, and by Ruth Wilson.

The documentary will chart Wilson’s electrifying performance as a true journey of self-exploration, drawing on her collective experiences of life and work. The element of surprise is exacerbated by the fact that, as they come and go from the space, Ruth’s 100 co-stars will encounter nothing but women and non-binary people (the stage production and the documentary has an entirely female and non-binary crew).

With the performance at the centre of the film, the documentary promises to create a compelling, distinctive piece of art in its own right, with this unique piece of theatre at its heart. As the performance unfolds, the dynamics of power and control in relationships becomes a potent theme.

Ruth Wilson said in a statement: “Theatre to me is always a magical space of shared belief and imagination. As an artist I’m always curious about putting myself in scenarios where I don’t know how I’m going to get through it. Which is exactly why this endurance performance is so exciting. It’s an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience and to have such a talented, all-female and non-binary crew on hand to capture every moment should make for a fascinating watch.”

Director Ursula Macfarlane, said: “I am thrilled to be working with the incandescent Ruth Wilson, Undeniable and the Young Vic to make such a challenging, bold unpredictable film. With this unique and magical theatrical experience at the heart of our film, balancing on the blurred edges between real life and performance, we’ll explore gender power dynamics, human relationships, artifice and authenticity and the very nature of acting. This is a leap into the unknown for all of us, and a storytelling challenge like this is the greatest gift for a filmmaker.”

Mandy Chang, Global Head of Documentaries at Fremantle, said: “The opportunity to make a film woven around this groundbreaking piece of theatre, with a team that is completely made up of female professionals is a rare gift, as is working with two great talents in their fields – actor Ruth Wilson and director Ursula Macfarlane. Ruth’s bravery, boldness and sense of adventure in taking on this role is a joy to see unfold. Ursula is one of the foremost women filmmakers working in the documentary field today and her work has focused on a wide diversity of female characters in all their guises during her career.”

More shows now booking at The Young Vic:

Beneatha’s Place (27 June – 5 August 2023)

Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play (18 September – 4 November 2023)

📷 Main photo: The Second Woman - Ruth Wilson at the Young Vic Photo by Helen Murray

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