Theater / “A Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion, directed by Laurence Strangio and performed by Jillian Murray. At Q, Queanbeyan, until August 6. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN.
“A YEAR of Magical Thinking” is a solo performance adapted by American writer Joan Didion from her 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name.
It explores the experience of grief in the year following the death of a loved one and the disordered or “magical” thinking that makes us believe that our actions or superstitions can have an impossible influence on the outside world.
Didion writes of the deaths of her husband and daughter noting that “the details will be different, but it will happen to you”.
It is a powerful text that needs little theatrical adornment.
Interpreter Jillian Murray does not play Joan Didion. Starting under house lights, with no fourth wall, she introduces herself and, as an actress, begins to present the text.
For the next 85 minutes, she delivers a poetic, philosophical, evocative and raw monologue with very little movement and considerable effect.
Foremost are the unbiased wisdom and observations of an older writer. On all sides are seething confused waves of hope, illusions and vain attempts to negotiate with fate.
We recognize this character, we have seen him, we have been, or both.
The all-male production team takes a minimalist, thoughtful approach to design, sound and light. The house lights slowly turn off for the first half hour of the show. In its deepest moments of magical thinking, subtle sound design draws us deeper into this courageous exploration of the universal yet isolating experience of grief.
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Ian Meikle, editor