REVIEW – Every Brilliant Thing


By Isabella Fraser

Theatre in the round can be challenging but in this entertaining and touching one-man show written by Duncan Macmillan and performed by Jonny Donahoe, it is the perfect choice. Directed by George Perrin, it is a warm, funny and empathetic, interactive piece through which the thread of depression and suicide weaves.

Donahoe is in the space as the audience enters and everyone is handed a piece of paper on which is written a number and a comment. Donahoe chats to audience members for as long as it takes to put them at their ease. The numbers and comments on the paper are from the list that this show is woven around – a list that Donahoe’s character started creating as a child to show his mum that she should not commit suicide because of the titular ‘brilliant things’. Numbers are called at random; not all numbers are called so it may be that different numbers feature on different days.

The show follows Donahoe’s character from childhood onwards. Interspersed with this journey are the listed comments – read out and, in some cases, performed by unsuspecting audience members. This is seen as all good fun however and encouragement is gently and teasingly given – Donahoe’s persuasive good humour never fails and audience members as key characters from his life surprise themselves with their much-appreciated participation. Perrin’s direction has cleverly created a team effort from this one-man show: there is a feel in the room that we are all pulling together, to help Donahoe in his mission by answering the call of the numbers, listening to what they mean. Music, songs (Donahoe has a lovely singing voice) and revealed stories tie all the sections together.

Donahoe has a natural storytelling persona, which works well with this piece. The only quibble would be that it ends abruptly and he has gone almost before the audience realizes what has happened, but then that is the case when someone we love passes away suddenly: perhaps that is the point. Do not be put off by the audience participation – this is a show that somehow manages to get under your skin and leaves you with a smile on your face but also a reminder of what we should appreciate.

Every Brilliant Things runs until 22 August (not 16, 17) in the Roundabout Theatre at Summerhall at 12.00 noon. Running time is 1 hour, 10 mins.

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