Every Brilliant Thing

You’ll have to excuse me for saying this, but Every Brilliant Thing is, quite simply, brilliant. There is no other word to describe it. A story of depression, love and loss stretching across the course of a lifetime, this solo show is both devastatingly sad and incredibly uplifting, leaving the audience laughing through their tears and crying through their laughter.

Every Brilliant Thing charts a careful course between a difficult topic and the script’s exceedingly sweet format.

A boy (Jonny Donahoe) is six years old and his mother has just attempted suicide. In an attempt to cheer her up, as well as himself, he starts a list of every thing in the world that’s brilliant. Ice-cream. People falling over. Top Cat. Spaghetti Bolognese. He sets himself a milestone: a thousand brilliant things. As he grows up and his mother attempts suicide again, the list grows longer. One hundred thousand brilliant things. Five hundred thousand. A million.

Every Brilliant Thing charts a careful course between a difficult topic and the script’s exceedingly sweet format. It’s a tightrope walk of great skill: too far in one direction and the show could become maudlin, but too far in the other and any serious message would get lost in whimsy. Writer Duncan Macmillan and director George Perrin have managed just the right balance. It is a story that almost everyone can relate to in their own lives, or in that of their friends and family: the constant struggle to be happy.

Given its universal themes, it is appropriate that the production is one that so involves its audience. Directed in the round, Donahoe’s performance is one of the most engaging, warm and funny performers you are likely to see at the Fringe this year. He uses audience members to read out parts of his “brilliant” list, hold up his keyboard, or become characters in his story. This is interactive theatre, but it’s in no way scary or embarrassing for those participating or for the audience members watching, due mainly to Donahoe’s kind encouragement, trust and acceptance of his unexpected improvisation partners. An excellent soundtrack and use of music rounds out this delightful production.

If I were writing a list of a million brilliant things, Every Brilliant Thing would be the first thing on it. 

Reviews by Jenny Williams

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The Blurb

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy. You start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for. 1. Ice cream, 2. Water fights, 3. Things with stripes, 4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose, 5. Rollercoasters, 6. Me. A new play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love. The show involves members of the audience, making each performance unique.