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24 hours of theatre with María Hervás in ‘The Second Woman’ | Culture

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There are shows, and then there are event-shows. Or experience-shows. Australian creators Nat Randall and Anna Breckon are the creators of The Second Womana theatrical proposal that includes several appetizing headlines. A production that lasts 24 hours. The same scene repeated 100 times. An actress and 100 men. Or rather: 100 people who identify themselves within the spectrum of masculinity. The actress María Hervás saw the production last year in London, starring Ruth Wilson at the Young Vic, and was captivated by it. She called Josep Domènech (from Bitò Produccions) with an idea in mind, and a happy coincidence meant that when they went to look for Francesc Casadesús (director of the Grec) he told them that he was also thinking about the project. Last weekend the Spanish version of the production premiered at the Teatre Lliure (Barcelona), which will be seen on October 19 at the Teatro Central in Seville and on November 9 at the Teatros del Canal, in Madrid (within the Autumn Festival).

“What time did you arrive?”, “How long will you stay?”, “Will you see the twenty-four hours?” These and other questions floated in the air at the Lliure, in the interval between Saturday at six in the evening and Sunday at six in the evening. Randall and Breckon’s proposal is inspired by Opening night (John Cassavettes, 1977), the film starring Gena Rowlands that is a love letter to the mystery of theatre. The two Australians are interested in the frictions between representation and the gaze, and they play very cleverly with the seams that unite cinema and theatre. The set design of The Second Woman It is an elegant and impersonal cubicle, a little red room in a hotel room where the protagonist will receive her 100 companions and repeat, as if in a self-imposed sentence, the same scene 100 times in a row. With 15-minute breaks every two hours (for the performer and the audience), the experience is not designed to be seen in its entirety: after two or three hours the spectator already gets an idea of ​​the experiment. But be warned: it is a highly addictive show. On Saturday I saw the first eight hours and I did not find it at all boring or monotonous. On Sunday I saw the three finals and I was happy to applaud the stage and life prowess of María Hervás. My experience with The second woman lasted 11 hours.

The charm of the production is its apparent simplicity: a short scene, a meeting between a man and a woman, some Chinese noodles, some whiskey, a dance. The red dress and the blond wig inevitably bring the protagonist closer to Gena Rowlands, but at the end of the show I saw a rather unhinged Marlene Dietrich. The text of the scene is fixed, but there is room for improvisation: the 100 volunteers can contribute their own material at the beginning, pronounce adjectives of their choice and choose their words to leave the scene. partners Hervás’s children also do not know some of the actions she will perform. Two camera operators record the details of the scene: the live production shows us close-ups (gestures, glances, objects) that the human eye cannot see from a theatre audience. The entire artistic team of the production is made up of women. The men pass by.

The cubicle where the play ‘The Second Woman’ is performed.Alice Brazzit – Greek Festival

To talk about Hervás’s interpretation, we must use superlative terms. The essence of theatre is the key to the production and her work: the “here” and the “now”, the absolute present, the gaze and the connection. Every time María Hervás turns around, she discovers her new and ephemeral companion, and the scene is different every time. The art of improvisation, chemistry or feeling that the actress feels with the man in front of her becomes The Second Woman in a live thesis on representation and the gaze. Power and vulnerability, attraction and desire, boredom and disgust. We are all María Hervás when we see her deal with this catalogue of masculinities: from the sweetest, queer or tender to the most crude and ridiculous. Men of different ages and backgrounds vary the dramatic layers of the scene. Error is beautiful and the unpredictability of the theatre is the unpredictability of life.

Throughout these 24 hours, María Hervás shows herself to be strong and weak, powerful and perky, cynical and playful. All at once and at the same time. That “complex woman” who frightens and attracts men equally is also the actress condemned, like Sisyphus, to repeat as a punishment the act of looking and being looked at. “Here I am, begging again.” Begging for our attention, our love and our empathy. Being scrutinized and analyzed by the public and critics under the heat of the spotlights, surrounded by cameras and in front of our attentive pupils. Like in a hypothetical painting by Edward Hopper that could be called Woman waitingThe actress cleans and tidies up the space after each scene, elegantly waiting for her new victim. The arrogant man or the young actor eager to shine at this public audition are devoured by Hervás with the grace and intelligence of a praying mantis. But she is also locked in her little world of fiction, like an insect in a terrarium, in a plane where neither time nor space exist. Only illusion.

Actress María Hervás, with one of the 100 men from the play 'The Second Woman'.
Actress María Hervás, with one of the 100 men from the play ‘The Second Woman’.Alice Brazzit – Greek Festival

The Second Woman It is a stage experience that connects wonderfully with the most theatrical, the most cinephile or the most profane audience. The fragility and vulnerability of the actress is, paradoxically, her greatest strength. Theatre is ritual and repetition, trial and error, brilliant dancing and stumbling. All in The Second Woman breathes theatre. Because theatre is and always will be that stumbling block.

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