Critical Stages Touring

Written by – Joan Didion

Directed by – Laurence Strangio

Sound Design – Darius Kedros

Lighting Design – Andy Turner

Performed by – Jillian Murray

An intimate, powerful and deeply-personal story, performed by one of Australia's finest actors.

The details will be different, but it will happen to you.

Described by the New York Times as ‘thrilling and engaging – universal, profound… and uplifting’ Joan Didion’s celebrated memoir is brought to life by Green Room Award-winning actor Jillian Murray in a critically-acclaimed solo performance that reunites her with director Laurence Strangio (L’amante Anglaise national tour 2019).

This highly personal account of loss through the lens of hope unpacks a surreal and overwhelming time in Didion’s life as she faces the sudden loss of her husband John, and later her daughter Quintana. Deeply moving, sometimes funny, and ultimately joyful, this is one woman’s story of the journey to find acceptance, and the lessons learnt in letting go.

The Year of Magical Thinking enjoyed a critically-acclaimed premiere season at Melbourne’s FortyFiveDownstairs in 2019 that had audiences clamouring to see it – the 2022 tour will be a must-see for fans of great drama.

Available to Tour



Theatre, Solo Theatre


Recommended for ages 15+


85 minutes

Venue Format

Theatre, Hall, Black Box Venue
Recommended for smaller-scale venues

Previous Seasons

FortyFive Downstairs, 2019

2022 Performance Dates

If tickets are not on sale yet at your selected venue the links below will take you to their What’s On page. 

8 June
Portland Arts Centre

10 June
Clocktower Centre

11 June
One Community

15 June
Frankston Arts Centre

17 – 18 June
The Engine Room, Bendigo

21 June
Bowery Theatre, St Albans

23 – 25 June
Theatre Royal Hobart

28 June
Byron Bay Theatre

30 June
Jetty Memorial Theatre

2 July
Blue Mountains Theatre

7 – 9 July
Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre

14 July
Zenith Theatre Sydney

16 July
The Twyford Theatre

What People Are Saying

“We felt like privileged listeners, given access to an extraordinarily insightful confrontation with the way in which grief loosens our grasp on reason”  ArtsHub

“The audience is mesmerised, holding on to every word, gesture, with eyes following her movements, taking in what’s been so eloquently said” Theatre People

“Jillian Murray gives a superb performance – poised, vulnerable, intelligent and full of the subtlest ironies” Herald Sun

“This is yet another fine – and, if you like, ‘magical’ – performance from Jillian Murray, aided and guided by Mr Strangio, who here shows that he knows very well that less is more.” Stage Whispers

From the Director

I remember reading Joan Didion’s memoir long before she adapted it into a play and having the glimmer of a thought about how powerful it would be to hear someone telling this experience to an audience.

For me, the essential element is Didion’s scrupulous honesty in dissecting her experience – questioning the validity of her own thought processes and behaviour. More particularly, this is a work that aims to prepare its audience for their own encounters with unexpected loss and grief that await them. This is Didion’s gift to the audience: she is a correspondent from the far country of ‘Grief’ – ‘Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.’ – offering us the opportunity to gain from her experience, to be prepared in some small way for what lies ahead.

In staging the piece, my intention has always been to be as honest as the text. We are not watching ‘Joan Didion’ onstage, this is Jillian Murray presenting Joan Didion’s experience as she describes it. There is no attempt to impersonate Didion nor to deceive the audience in any other way. What we are seeking is a staging that is both simple and complex in the same way as the play itself is. A personal story that can be shared as intimately as a private conversation, and for the benefit of everyone.

Good to Know

This is a production that will appeal to adult arts and theatre lovers, and will have particular appeal for audiences aged 40+ and 65+.

The play will appeal to lovers of literature and fans of Joan Didion.

Joan Didion is a fascinating and highly acclaimed writer. When President Barack Obama presented her with the National Medal of Arts in 2013, he described her as “one of the most celebrated American writers of her generation”. She is the subject of the Netflix documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”. The play is based on her award-winning book of the same name – offering opportunities to connect with local bookstores, libraries and book clubs.

The production had an incredibly successful premiere season at fortyfivedownstairs in 2019, enjoying sold-out performances and outstanding reviews. Many audience members contacted the company after the show to express how much they connected with it.

Audiences will be familiar with Jillian Murray’s award-winning performance as Claire Lannes in L’amante Anglaise. This is a very logical follow-up for theatres who presented the Critical Stages Touring production in 2019, with the same creative team and lead actor.