By Danielle Farrow
Every Brilliant Thing features a list, first created by the young child self of the narrator telling his story. This list is full of wonderful, often highly detailed, things in life which should make living worth while. The fact is that, for anyone struggling to engage with life and keep living, a list of things – however brilliant – is not enough to deal with such depression.
That doesn’t mean the list is useless: here it is used not only to engage the audience in the protagonist’s life, but also to be a thread running through his story and something with which he himself connects at different points along his own journey from being a child whose mother suffers from depression to someone who has to face such demons himself.
The aspect of depression does not make for a depressing piece. With great humour and lightness of touch, alongside some very well handled audience participation by performer Jonny Donahoe, this boy to man development is far more amusing than it is dramatic, though deft moments of poignancy also shine through. There could be room for a little more emotional texture, in fact. A brief mention which hinted at the mother being bi-polar, with a tiny section that – pushed just a bit further – might have shared what someone is like when manic, could be explored with more depth, and the deft handling of darker aspects became almost a glancing look only when it came to his own depression, despite this containing one of the poignant moments.
Music runs through the piece, connecting the protagonist to both his parents, as well as drawing the audience in, and the lights in Paines Plough’s Roundabout – a pop-up theatre in the round – are up on the audience the whole time, serving the participation aspect. The way in which Donahoe coaxes and teases people into playing characters in his tale is part of the joy of the production. He is very personable in his connection to audience members, and the clever and telling humour of the piece stays warm throughout.
Every Brilliant Thing – from Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company – is a fine solo (plus others!) show that engages its audience through sincere charm, deals with the serious subject matters of depression and suicide with good humour, and plays with aspects of storytelling and theatre with gentle wit, eliciting a standing ovation on the occasion viewed.
8-30 August (not 11, 18, 25), 14:05 (15:05), Roundabout @ Summerhall
Every Brilliant Thing