The Year of Magical Thinking Reviewed By George Dixon

 ****stars

The year of magical thinking is more to do with life and its continuance, rather than the sudden death of a loved one. The difference between what one imagines and what actually happened, during grief. As in the play’s introduction, “The details will be different, but it will happen to you.” Grief like death is a part of everyone’s life.

This play presents the true story of the fabulous play writer and acclaimed novelist, Joan Didion’s (co-writer of A Star is Born) experience and inner thoughts during the year after her husband John Gregory Dunne’s sudden death in 2009, and later that same year the death of their daughter Quintana Roo Dunne.”

The script is incredibly insightful, and raw, brilliantly executed by Jillian Murray who as the directors’ notes say “We are not watching Joan Didion on stage, this is Jillian Murray presenting Joan Didion’s experiences as she describes it. There is no attempt to impersonate Didion nor to deceive the audience in any way.”

The aim is to present an authentic, true to the text presentation, which is both simple and complex. A personal story that is shared intimately between the presenter and the audience.

This it does with grace and compassion in a way that provides insight for anyone who has yet to experience such grief, even though you may be prepared, you still won’t be.

The staging is simple; one table, a chair set to its side, about 3 steps away. A song plays in the background, Carole King’s “It’s too late.” Sets the tone for the next eighty-five minutes,

On walks Jillian Murray, the introduction begins.

The audience is mesmerised, holding on to every word, gesture, with eyes following her movements, taking in what’s been so eloquently said, making allowances as the script moves forward and back with the occasional repeat, as people do when their in shock, or grief, Thinking about the reflective questions and reflecting on statements which will resonate with most of us, such as, “You always have to have the last word” and “Why can’t you just let it go;” or “Your always right”. Questions which children ask”Am I Safe”, “will I make it” for which the reply is always “Yes”

Murray is masterful in the portrayal of Joan Didion’s experiences, within her performance there is respect for the topic and the person, the openness and vulnerability of opening up and exposing the inner self, the inner thoughts and justifications of behaviours and mystical thinking, makes this a very compelling and relevant play to see.

 Laurance Strangio – Director has taken this play with its topic sensitivity, simplicity and complex ability that are presented within the writing and given it light and life. While being true to the overall goal of offering something that is “honest to the text”

The collaboration and trust between Murray and Strangio are clear to see, the depth and restraint of emotions demonstrate the intricacies and emotions released and contained when telling one’s story.

The lighting design and operation by Andy Turner is simply superb, subtle in operation, providing for a natural atmosphere, with controlled night time dimming and off stage highlighting along with the right degree of positioning and sensitivity to the dialogue, proving that less is more.

Darius Kedros – Sound Design and Engineer, provided superb coverage, which was both unintrusive and natural, a masterpiece for the staging and environment.

fortyfivedownstairs are to be congratulated for hosting such a powerful play.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Fortyfivedownstairs.

45 Flinders Lane.

31st October – 17 November 2019

Bookings: 03- 9662 9966

Images: Jodie Hutchinson

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