Review: The Year of Magical Thinking, National Theatre

Based on the memoir of the same name by Joan Didion, recounting a year in the life of the author after the sudden death of her husband and during which her daughter was also taken seriously ill and eventually died, The Year of Magical Thinking is a searching examination of grief and the mourning process

It is painful and at times oddly emotionless: this is mainly due to the analytical nature of the writing. This is no self-indulgent exercise in wallowing but rather a detached examination of the effects of grief. Only occasionally do glimpses of the grieving widow escape, and they are all the more effective for their rarity.

Having already done a run on Broadway, we get the benefit of Vanessa Redgrave being intimately comfortable with the material and it shows in her measured but hauntingly beautiful performance. Her mellifluous tones fill the auditorium effortlessly and her stage presence is just captivating, every movement carefully crafted to show how much self-control this woman has over her emotions.

The staging is minimal, focusing the attention solely on Redgrave, with the only effect being the watered silk curtain behind her dropping at the end of each ‘act’ or chapter to reveal another similar but subtly different. So all in all, a great experience more cerebral than tear-jerking and a wonderful opportunity to see a true legend onstage (my first Redgrave).

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