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Every Brilliant Thing

at Summerhall

* * * * -

Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe’s touching comedy about coping with a loved one’s depression

Image of Every Brilliant Thing
Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

Back in Roundabout for more exciting new writing, Every Brilliant Thing is Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe’s touching comedy about coping with a loved one’s depression. Equally heartrending and uplifting, this is great live theatre taking risks that depend on a willing and open audience. With a frenetically enthusiastic central performer in Jonny Donahue, the audience are instantly engaged and easily convinced to participate in listing all the brilliant things he can think of.

The list of every brilliant thing begins as a little boy’s naïve attempt to coax his mum out of her depression. As the boy grows up, the list is long forgotten but eventually continued, bringing him and his new found love together, helping him through the bad times, and reminding him and his family members of why life is worth living. It becomes almost a way of living and evolves into an entirely new way of viewing the world and living in a joyful way.

In a warm and trusting atmosphere, natural, fun and hilarious audience participation ensues and brings about a series of great moments in a fully absorbing piece. For me, being part of a rotating piano unit was a particular highlight, as well as witnessing other members being coaxed into playing key characters.

Based on “stories that are true and untrue”, the truth of feeling and experience in this outstanding piece is palpable. Every Brilliant Thing somehow manages to simultaneously be a tender love letter and an uproarious comedy, as well as dealing with serious issues surrounding depression and suicide. A sharply written, hilarious piece that makes you think of all the brilliant things you might have forgotten and how even at the worst of times perspective and humour can help to heal. This is an altogether charming piece that reminds us of the undeniable power and immersion of live performance.