Yesterday, a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in London, I had the pleasure of seeing one of our greatest living actresses performing in Joan Didion’s play based on her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, which I read back in March 2006.

I was very impressed with the book which deals with Didion’s reaction to the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and I think I read it virtually in one sitting. The play expands on the book by covering the illness and death of her only child Quintana which happened some 18 months after Dunne’s death. So I jumped at the chance to see how it would work on stage.

The play opens with these 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.

That’s what I’m here to tell you.”

I found the play deeply moving, and Vanessa Redgrave was as wonderful as I had hoped she would be, a commanding presence on a stage bare except for one chair and a backdrop depicting the sky (which changed at various points) holding everyone’s attention for the whole 90 minutes of her monologue. A fantastic experience.