Every Brilliant Thing

Every Brilliant Thing is quite simply brilliant. When the narrator, played by Jonny Donahoe (who also developed the script with Duncan Macmillan and director George Perrin) is seven, his mum makes an attempt on her life. He responds by beginning to write a list of all the brilliant things in the world that are worth living for.

If I were to start a list of all the brilliant things in life, theatre that makes us feel like this would be right at the top.

It’s a solo show but he is not alone. Members of the audience participate, reading items off the list. Others are cast as key characters in the story: his father, a veterinarian, a beloved school teacher.

Donahoe’s rapport with the audience is excellent, done with gentle touch and a firm surety, while the contribution made by audience participants is extraordinary. We are all prepared to go along with this and there’s no sense of self-consciousness.

The woman in the audience cast as his school teacher (because of her kindly face) obediently removes her shoe and sock, makes a sock puppet dog - which she names - and has a delightful conversation with Donahoe, so perfect it could have been scripted, but perfect because it wasn’t scripted.

Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, censored for apparently condoning suicide, lent a name to what is known as the Werther effect - when suicide rates increase following the suicide of a well-known figure, fictional or otherwise. This is one of the reasons the Samaritans has a set of guidelines about the reporting and depiction of suicide. The difficult territory to tread is how we talk about a problem we cannot ignore.

Until you’ve seen it, you may find it difficult to understand how a play about depression and suicide can be incredibly funny and heart-warming. Macmillian’s script is extraordinary, as is Donohoe’s performance, and the intimate surroundings of the Paines Plough Roundabout is the perfect setting. It’s a genuinely moving show, and you’ll find yourself laughing, smiling, and wet about the eyes when you walk outside, still tingling from the wonder of it all. If I were to start a list of all the brilliant things in life, theatre that makes us feel like this would be right at the top.

Reviews by Emma Gibson

theSpace @ Venue45

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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. So you start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything worth living for. 1. Ice cream. 2. Kung fu movies. 3. Burning things. 4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose. 5. Construction cranes. 6. Me. A play about depression and the lengths we go to for those we love. ‘Heart-wrenching, hilarious ... possibly one of the funniest plays you'll ever see’ **** (Guardian).

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