EVERY BRILLIANT THING
by Duncan Macmillan and Jimmy Donohoe.
Tour to 27 June 2015.
Runs 1hr 10min (approx).
Review Timothy Ramsden 18 May at The North Wall Oxford.
Depressive’s story that’s anything but depressing.
Told another way this could be a turgid Hollywood (or West End) weepie: the child’s dog dying, the mother’s increasingly slender hold on life. Moments of hope in love and marriage, leading downhill to the pall of separation and gloom: like mother, like son. And through it all, the sentimental thread of a lengthening list of brilliant things that make life worth living.
Which shows how you tell something is as important as what you tell. Here, the two fuse, revealing a story a realistic approach would bury under a heap of distracting emotional detail. Instead, Jimmy Donohoe’s cheerfully energetic performance of Duncan Macmillan’s script (with his own contributions) displays the underlying pulse of life that can beat away clouds of despair.
Yet it takes its subject seriously – including material from a Samaritan leaflet on working with potential suicides – and is psychologically acute as an original childhood list of 100 brilliant things expands to a million, with increasingly sophisticated items.
Perhaps the clearest way the show’s form is vital to its meaning is in its use of the audience. Depression, with suicide at its extreme, becomes wrapped in itself, rejecting anything outside. Donohoe’s ‘Narrator’ – an evasive term, in this context (whose story is he narrating?) – is at the centre of a performance which emphasises community. The piece is staged in-the-round; before the show Donohoe hands out cards with audience responses on, so that from the childish number one of ice-cream to the penultimate expression of brilliance, sunlight, the list he builds is celebrated and shared among the crowd.
Added to this pre-arranged participation, audience members are called upon during the show to play their parts in the Narrator’s (or his subject’s – that evasion again) life. At the North Wall, certainly, good will was joined with invention as people became a vet, sympathetic schoolteacher, father, lecturer and lover-bride.
Encouraging people to accept such invitations to take part requires an energy and skill in communication which reflect a sense of purpose. So the darkest episodes are lightened by a sense of celebration in this fine piece, which creatively matches subject and form.
Narrator: Jonny Donohoe.
Director: George Perrin.
19-20 May Tue 8pm; Wed 7pm (both sold out) Roundabout (Regency Square) Brighton Festival 01273 709709 www.brightonfestival.org
21 May 1.30pm & 7.30pm The Quarterhouse Folkestone 01303 760750 www.quarterhouse.co.uk
22 May 8pm The Spring Havant 023 9247 2700 www.thespring.co.uk
23-24 May 5pm Roundabout (Regency Square) Brighton Festival 01273 709709 www.brightonfestival.org
26 May 7.30pm The Dukes Lancaster 01524 598500 www.dukes-lancaster.org
28 May 7.30pm Trestle Arts Base St Albans 01727 850950 www.trestle.org.uk
30 May 8pm Leintwardine Community Centre 01547 540554 www.leintwardinecentre.wordpress.com
2 Jun 9.30pm High Street Exhibition Gallery Ipswich 01473 295900 www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
3 Jun 8pm Brewery Arts Centre Kendal 01539 725133 www.breweryarts.co.uk
4 Jun 7.30pm Harlow Playhouse 01279 431945 www.playhouseharlow.com
5-6 Jun 8pm Marlowe Theatre (Studio) Canterbury 01227 787787 www.marlowetheatre.com
7 Jun 7.30pm Square Chapel Halifax 01422 349422 www.squarechapel.co.uk
10 Jun 8pm Marine Theatre Lyme Regis 01297 442138 www.marinetheatre.com
11 Jun 8pm The Muni Colne 01282 661234 www.themuni.co.uk
12,13 Jun The Lowry Salford 0843 208 6000 www.thelowry.com
15 Jun 8pm South Hill Park (Studio Theatre) Bracknell 01344 484123 www.southhillpark.org.uk
17 Jun 7.45pm The Castle (Studio) Wellingborough 01933 270007 www.thecastle.org.uk
18 Jun 7pm The Garage Norwich 01603 283382 www.thegarage.org.uk
19 Jun 7.45pm Key Studio Peterborough 01733 207239 www.vivacity-peterborough.com
21 Jun 7.30pm Tolmen Centre Constantine 01326 341353 www.constantinecornwall.com
23 Jun 8pm Salisbury Arts Centre 01722 321744 www.salisburyartscentre.co.uk
25 Jun 7.30pm Phoenix Theatre Bordon 01420 472664 www.phoenixarts.co.uk
26, 27 Jun 8pm BSL Signed Fri Derby Theatre 01332 593939 www.derbytheatre.co.uk