In a small dark studio in ACMI between the 20th-21st, I was fortunate enough to witness what can only be described as a live action experiment labeled The Second Woman. For 24-hours Nat Randall performed a script derived from the cult classic film Opening Night (John Cassavetes), looping this scene over and over with different male volunteers. The true nature of the script is unknown, however through my own deductions I realised there was a strong element of improvisation on the men’s behalf.
Despite viewing her show for only a short period, I felt a sense of elation and anxiety from the depths of my chest as I eagerly awaited each line. I drank in the neon lights and chiffon walls that covered the performance room while Randall danced around each man in her seductive red dress. I saw four main exchanges during my visit and each was unique and eclectic, an independent result of the male counterpart.
The Second Woman studies many elements including dynamic relationships, chemistry, and intimacy.
The initial performance became the status quo, Randall began by asking the man, “What are you thinking about?”. Soon after he pours her a drink and they both sit for dinner (consisting of noodles), she tells him “I’m not good enough… you don’t think I’m pretty… you don’t think I’m funny… I want to be capable!” After being reassured of her attributes, Randall’s character announces, “and… you love me”. This line is connected with a pregnant pause between the two actors before Randall unexplainably dispenses the noodles on the table and throws the box. Calmly, she walks to the radio and it begins playing Taste of Love – Aura, her body sways gently and soon enough she is joined by the male role. As the dance becomes intimate, we see Randall push the man away, collapsing on the floor, there’s an uncomfortable and awkward silence as she slowly rises to switch the radio off.
“I think you should leave.” Is the final line in the 20-minute performance and the man shakily walks out the door. Some said “I love you” while others chose to say “I never loved you”, the final phrase is completely dependent of the experience and chemistry between the couple onstage. I found that despite the similarity of the script in each loop the overall tonality and atmosphere was always reoriented. The initial loop was fiercely intimate and I felt a strong sense of connection. The second actor was alternatively jocular and gave a jovial performance, the couple gave a strong vibe of friendship than two in a passionate relationship.
There’s an oddly ethereal moment I experienced when the third gentleman walked into the room, he was jittery and was so nervous he had completely forgotten the entire scrip. The couple sat at the table eating noodles for 10 minutes before Randall ushered him out while the audience members giggled. I realised soon after that there wasn’t the catharsis that usually followed the previous two scenes, instead my mind was still waiting for the loop to be ‘complete’.
The Second Woman was a fascinating concoction of affection, connection, and interpretation. Randall’s performance pierces deeper than just the electricity between actors, but also our interpretation as an audience. The final loop I surveyed was acutely personal and at its climax I felt almost uncomfortable viewing the exchange. The Second Woman was a one in a lifetime show, and for those like me who were fortunate enough to be entangled in its snare we left the studio with its imprint on our minds.