Today, our premium documentaries label, Undeniable, announces a new feature documentary, The Second Woman (w/t), capturing Golden Globe and two-time Olivier Award winner Ruth Wilson (Luther, His Dark Materials) in an epic, one-off performance piece at the Young Vic theatre in London.
The Second Woman play is created and directed by playwrights and directors, Anna Breckon and Nat Randall and co-produced by the Young Vic Theatre and LIFT- London’s international festival of theatre, two of the UK’s most innovative cultural organisations. It is produced in association with Ruth Wilson, presented in proud association with House of Oz.
The Second Woman (w/t) documentary is directed by Ursula Macfarlane, whose credits include BAFTA-nominated Untouchable and 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.
Created by Australian theatre and film artists Anna Breckon and Nat Randall, The Second Woman sees Ruth performing a single break up scene over and over playing opposite 100 different men, non-binary, and queer people across a full 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 breaks throughout the performance, Wilson plays 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 has no way of knowing in advance who her co-stars are, nor can she anticipate how they might choose to play the scene. All this while she navigates a combination of adrenaline and exhaustion.
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.
This truly unique production has an entirely female and non-binary crew – both on the documentary and backstage at the theatre.
With the performance at the centre of the film, the documentary creates 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.
Commenting on the announcement of The Second Woman (w/t) documentary, Ruth Wilson said: “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, commented: “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.”
Launched at CPH:DOX earlier this year, Undeniable, a Fremantle label, aims to develop and produce premium projects, and harness its global expertise to attract and work with high-profile talent and international commissioners. From investigative, geopolitical, and single narrative stories to cultural landmark films, contemporary history, true-crime and genre busting biopics on a global scale, the label’s ambition is to make provocative, entertaining, diverse, and influential films and series that push the boundaries of storytelling and challenge assumptions about the world around us.
Undeniable, a Fremantle label, is already developing several international projects and partnerships with high-profile, award-winning filmmakers, including Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, Phoenix Rising), Chris Smith (Tiger King, Bad Vegan), Penny Lane and Gabriel Sedgwick (Hail Satan?, Listening to Kenny G).