Sometimes enthusiasm just gets the better of me and this week's blog is, essentially, another one of my fan letters.
Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe's one-man play Every Brilliant Thing is old news now - it premiered in 2014 and has become a staple of the Paines Plough Roundabout programme as well as being seen around the world and even on HBO. Which in itself is a brilliant thing.
And now, despite every intention to have seen it in one of these guises, I finally have, thanks to its current run at the Orange Tree - which, surprisingly, marks its London debut.
The premise is that a young boy starts a list of brilliant things in order to cheer up his mum after a suicide attempt. The list soon grows into the thousands and becomes a thread that runs through his life, alongside his mum's debilitating depression and his growing realisation of his own.
In many ways it's heartbreaking. As someone who, like so many, has witnessed the effects of depression, I found myself tearful with recognition from the beginning. But I also found it joyous, even hilarious, thanks to both the scripted one-liners and Donahoe's skill at cajoling the audience. As Macmillan recently told the Evening Standard: "Jonny is amazing at finding a safety net where no answer is bad, and he’s got such skill and such confidence that everyone relaxes into it."
We effectively become his support cast, taking on a number of roles and providing some delightfully unpredictable moments in the process. We also read out many of the items on the list, from 'water fights' to 'a hairdresser who listens to what you want' (my own contribution last night).
Donahoe jokes at one stage that we are his self-help group, but it really does feel like that. And there's a deeper point here too, that dealing with depression is all about talking and sharing, embracing other people and not shutting them out.
For me, Every Brilliant Thing is the perfect embodiment of what theatre at its best can achieve: a genuine sense of community. And that, after all, is what defines live performance more than anything else.
- Theo Bosanquet
Image: Jonny Donahoe in Every Brilliant Thing (© Mihaela Bodlovic)Back to news