The Year of Magical Thinking is a play by Joan Didion, based on her memoir.
Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. So, begins acclaimed American writer Didion’s memoir of the year following her husband, John Gregory Dunne’s, death. The unexpected event ended a partnership of 40 years in a second, just days after their only child, Quintana, had fallen dangerously ill and slipped into a coma.
Faced with the unshakable finality of Dunne’s death, Didion’s normally rational thought processes took a less than pragmatic turn. She found herself, for example, keeping his shoes, reasoning that he would need them when he returned. Slowly she began to recognise that, although she was going through the motions associated with the rituals of closure, she was, in fact, longing to perform an impossible trick: to bring Dunne back. Her memoir is the story of the year she spent wishing; her year of magical thinking.
During the New York promotion of the recently published memoir, Quintana became seriously ill again. Following massive brain surgery, she died. She was thirty-nine. Six months after her second tragedy, Didion began working on turning her memoir into a play. This time she was dealing, not only with the loss of her partner, but with the loss of her entire immediate family. Although it is Didion’s story, she makes her dramatic adaptation as much about her audience as herself.
The character in the play is Joan, but also not Joan. She is a woman who has lived through and survived immense loss, and she pulls her audience into that
space with the admonishment contained in the opening lines: This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won’t when it happens to you. And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you. The Year of Magical Thinking is a journey through that most universal experience of human suffering: bereavement. It is frequently harrowing, sometimes amusing and, ultimately, an expression of the power love has to give life meaning.
The South African premier, stars Dorothy Ann Gould and is directed by Mark Graham Wilson.
Venue: Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre, 56 Margaret Mcingana St, Newtown
Time: Tue to Sat 8.15pm | Sun 3.15pm
Cost: R70 – R150