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A poetic, philosophical, evocative and raw monologue

Jillian Murray in “A Year of Magical Thinking”. Photo Jodie Hutchinson

Theatre / “A Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion, directed by Laurence Strangio and performed by Jillian Murray. At The Q, Queanbeyan, until August 6. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN.

“A YEAR of Magical Thinking” is a one-woman show 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 deludes us into believing that our actions or superstitions can have an impossible influence on the external world.

Didion writes about the deaths of both her husband and daughter noting that, “the details will be different, but it will happen to you”.

It’s a powerful text that needs little theatrical adornment. 

Performer Jillian Murray is not playing Joan Didion. Beginning under house lights, with no fourth wall, she introduces herself and, as an actor, begins to present the text.

For the next 85 minutes, she delivers a poetic, philosophical, evocative and raw monologue with very few movements and to considerable effect.

Front and centre are the dispassionate wisdom and observations of an older woman writer. Seething around all sides are confused swells of hope, delusion and vain attempts to bargain with fate.

We recognise this character, we have seen her, been her, or both.

The all-male production team takes a thoughtfully minimal approach to design, sound and light. The house lights slowly dim through the first half hour of the show. In its deepest moments of magical thinking, subtle sound design draws us deeper into this brave exploration of the universal but isolating experience of grief. 


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