A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

The Second Woman

The Second Woman
20 May 2023
Young Vic
5.0 out of 5.0 stars

The Second Woman, what an experience this one was!

One woman, one scene, 24 hours, 100 men, non-binary, and queer people.

Ruth Wilson took on a major project with this show. It ran a full 24 hours through, with only short, 10 minute intervals every hours or so. The same scene played 100 different ways with 100 different counterparts.

I was able to grab a couple of tickets for the 4am time-slot, so had to get up at 2.30am to have a decent breakfast and make it down to the Young Vic for 3.45am. The on-the-door queue was massive when we arrived, despite the early hours of Saturday morning, wrapping all the way down the pavement and around the corner. So we were very glad we could jump into the priority queue. Still, it took until 4.30am to get in after the nearest interval.

The way admission worked for this one was unusual. Patrons were able to stay and watch as long as they chose. Once seated, short 10-minute breaks for the loos or to grab food and drink were permitted, but longer absences meant having to hop back into the queue and wait to be re-admitted. Seats were also not assigned, and as soon as someone got up, their seats were snatched up by others to move closer to the middle of the auditorium, or get a different view of the scene.

We started all the way off to one side, but within an hour or two were almost central and just a few rows from the stage.

The scene itself is quite bland, a short conversation between a couple who clearly have a turbulent history. But each iteration of the scene with a new counterpart was a brand new performance with a different tone, new meaning, and varied depths. Of the 100 men, non-binary, and queer people who got to act the scene with Ruth Wilson, most were not actors or performers, which really stood out and made each repeat of the short scene a completely new experience.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, nor how long I’d want to stay, but was immediately struck with how entertaining and fascinating this show was. So many possibilities with just a few lines, the audience waiting with bated breath to see how the next performance would turn out and how Ruth would react to the next performer’s choices. From bland to exuberant, tragic to hilarious, this simple scene took on so many different coats, it seemed to get more exciting and fascinating the longer we watched.

After a good 7 hours that felt like about an hour, we unfortunately had to leave our seats as both me and the friend who accompanied me had book matinee shows that Saturday, not expecting to want to stay as long as we did. On the up side, we made room for more patrons to slip into the auditorium and experience this brilliant experiment in stamina.

If another production of this show comes around, I will definitely be attending again, what a fantastic experience it was! I have huge respect for every performer who braved The Second Woman and put their own stamp on an ever-repeating scene.

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