THE DEEP VALUE of The End of the Line, a series of fictional monologues on podcast, focused on women’s decisions to have — or not to have — children, comes to its fulsome self with this, its 14th episode. Here, you are privileged to hear Dame Harriet Walter as Siân, a woman recently widowed after a lifetime with the love of her life.
It’s a piece as much about the simple (and complicated) honesty of love and loss as it is about gentle and wry laughter and the ability to celebrate the moment. Without offspring. Resonating with the nub of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, but written with a tight succinctness, and a deep reservoir of an unabashed reflection on the magic of giving and receiving, this is an unforgettable paean to something beautiful that was first sown in 1980, when Terry met Siân, and it paints the face of longing and missing someone who represented everything in the world to someone else, without unnecessary labour in the writing department.
Siân has the authority that comes with age, to be able to sit in the face of her nosey neighbours or acquaintances spouting inappropriate thoughts and to shut the door quite unequivocally and with unapologetic force on them and their fancies. There is a sense of anger and irritation but also one of peace that enfolds this short piece of sheer gold that lies at the heart of the series and in its editing, actually gives more to the listener than Magical Thinking does. More is left to nuance: the picture painted is perfect.
Introducing an older woman into the bouquet of opinions contemplating a woman’s decision not to have children allows the premises of the series to expand and breathe air into what it means to be a woman. You don’t have to be in your late 20s – or even late 30s – to be able to articulate beautifully on the meaning of life and the fact that having children is a choice that you do not have to justify. Ever.
And oh, what an immense treat it is to hear Dame Walter in this role and this medium. It evokes a little that experience of Sir Ian McKellen in the British sitcom Vicious produced by Gary Reich. McKellen performed in this comedic made-for-television medium for the first time in his illustrious career, in 2014. And it is in this contemporary story-telling medium where you get to find great Shakespearean performer who you know from stage and film, Dame Walter, as close as your earphones. And it is completely extraordinary.
- Siân is a story written by Helen Cattle and directed by Mark Heywood. With production support by Lynne McConway and editing by Pocket Blockbuster, it features casting by Sydney Aldridge and music by Daisy Chute and Cerian of the Heard Collective, it is performed by Dame Harriet Walter and it is the 14th in a series of podcasts produced by Ink Jockey collectively called The End of the Line.