The Guardian describes the evening Vanessa Redgrave read excerpts from Joan Didion's memoir Blue Nights, which is about the death of Didion's daughter, Quintana Roo. Redgrave also lost a daughter, actress Natasha Richardson.
Redgrave read selections of Blue Nights, starting with Didion remembering Quintana’s wedding day, which took place in St John the Divine. The recounting of Quintana’s “sentimental choices” and the happiness of that day did not soften the impact of what was to come. Through Redgrave, Didion reminds us why we are here: “When we talk about mortality, we are talking about our children.”
While she read as a stand-in for Didion, Redgrave was reading for herself as well:her own daughter, actor Natasha Richardson, died in 2009. To hear Didion’s losses recounted by another was difficult; hearing Redgrave read of her own loss, in Didion’s words, was harder.
She sat as she read of Tasha, as Didion affectionately calls her, acting as an older friend to Quintana when they were adolescents; of her first wedding in Didion’s home; of her second wedding to actor Liam Neeson; of the accident on the ski slope, and of visiting her in the hospital.
“This was not supposed to happen to her,” Vanessa Redgrave looked up as she read this line, the second time, this time in reference to Natasha. Her words hung in the air as Owens’s interlude began again. His music acted as not only a pause in the narrative, but as a chance for the audience to breathe, to collect ourselves.