Arundel: play deals with grief

Coping with grief is the challenging but inspiring theme of The Year of Magical Thinking, the next production from UpperCut Theatre.

The play by Joan Didion is an adaptation of her award-winning, bestselling memoir of the same name. The first production, starring Vanessa Redgrave and directed by David Hare, opened on Broadway in 2007.

Performances are at The Arundel Jailhouse, High Street, Arundel on Thursday, May 21-Saturday, May 23 at 8pm. Tickets £10 (unreserved seating) available on 07508 212366, or on the website or at the door.

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Directed by Geraldine Lee-Uff-Zyms with Pennie Billinghurst as Joan Didion in the one-woman show, UpperCut are offering the UK amateur premiere of the wryly-amusing and moving story of how Joan coped with the unexpected loss of her husband followed by the death of their only daughter within a short space of time.

It’s Pennie’s choice,” says Geraldine, who lives in Rustington, “but I have knowledge of the subject having been widowed twice sadly, once a long time ago and once more recently. It is not a play about sadness although obviously the sadness is there. It is about how one reacts to the sadness, how one deals with the sadness. When you are living through something like this, you find your methods of coping. It’s really the story of one individual’s reaction to what has happened to her.

“It’s amusing and interesting, and people will identify with it if they have ever been in that situation. Joan is a famous American writer. The play starts with her telling the audience she is going to instruct them on what will happen. She bases this on the sudden death of her husband. They had been visiting their extremely-ill daughter in hospital and had come back home after that visit. One minute he is sitting and talking with her. The next minute he is dead. He has a massive heart attack. She is then narrating what happens afterwards, her reaction, how she tries to cope with it all. I recognise it. There are certain eternal truths, the ‘Oh, this is dreadful, I will stay with you tonight’ – ‘No, I am fine!’ conversations. And then it is told in terms of the medics looking after her daughter who continues to be ill and eventually dies herself, of septic shock syndrome.

“There are all sorts of absurdities you will recognise. When something like this happens, you are poleaxed.”