City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Every Brilliant Thing, Summerhall, Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 28 August 2015

Every Brilliant Thing - photo credit Michaela Bodlovic
Show Details
Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company
George Perrin (director), Duncan Macmillan (writer), Jonny Donahoe (co-writer), Lucy Osborne (designer), Emma Chapman (lighting designer), Tom Gibbons (sound designer).
Jonny Donahoe.

When our narrator was seven years old his mother couldn’t think of anything worth living for.

For a child the world is a difficult place to understand, to make those connections between cause and effect. A seemingly never ending litany of Why? addressed to his father has led him to see that without hope we can’t carry on.

And so the list is born. Every brilliant thing that he can think of, in no particular order. Starting simply with entries like The Colour Yellow, Things With Stripes, People Falling Over, it will grow and grow.

He knows she has seen it (she corrects the spelling), but its efficacy is in doubt. He is also worried that Mum doesn’t love Dad any more.

The list grows with him as he navigates his school and university years, through love found in the library and as he discovers his own adult life. Just when he needs it most and at 826,979 entries, the list stalls.

What seems like a simple idea is brilliant in its execution. Told in the round, the audience are drawn in by being given roles, either in calling out items from the list in response to numbers or taking more active parts in acting out characters. Donahoe’s easy manner and expertise in reading and empowering people allows them to respond in ways that are a delight to watch and which you would swear were scripted.

The imagined events have a backbone of facts - children of suicides feel guilty; there is an increase in the number of people taking their own lives following celebrity suicides. One of the Brilliant Things is the film “Jumanji”, whose star Robin Williams tragically hanged himself just over a year ago.

It’s important not to oversimplify matters and the media comes under fire for its sensationalist reporting. It’s a point well made when you consider the cult-like existence of the so-called “27 Club”; musicians who have died at that age. The idea of a list of brilliant things is of course not in itself the answer, something that our narrator acknowledges, regarding his earlier self as “naive but not self-righteous”.

The production manages to talk about a difficult subject in an honest and straightforward way while still being funny and highly entertaining. Should you get through life without being crushingly depressed, count yourself lucky. But then as our glazomaniac suggests, you possibly were not paying enough attention.

Show Times: 8 to 30 (not 11, 18, 25) August 2015 at 2.05 pm.

Ticket Prices: £15 (£10) to £17 (£12),

Suitability: 14+