Every Brilliant Thing
Every Brilliant Thing

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Every Brilliant Thing at Summerhall @ the roundabout (Venue 26a). Reviewed by Sally Stott

God, there are some depressing plays out there – but this one, by Duncan Macmillan, is a burst of sunshine on a damp and grey day; one of the most upbeat and life-affirming things I’ve seen this year. And it’s about depression.

Every Brilliant Thing

Through a thrillingly low-key performance, Jonny Donahoe tells the story of a boy growing up after his mother has “done something stupid”. He is part-performer, part-ringmaster (which is fitting for Summerhall’s big top-style Roundabout theatre) in a piece that demonstrates why life is worth living through the timed contributions of audience members doing just that.

The boy is making a list of every brilliant thing in the world in order to counteract the possibly of hereditary depression – a list that individual people, at set points, get to read out. And what a list it is, a mix of the banal, the brilliant and the strange but true: “Christopher Walken’s voice”, “Falling in love”, “People who can’t sing but don’t know they can’t sing”, “Sex”… So it goes on. He’s also trying to get together with a girl he fancies who – in what seems to be a quintessential part of every show involving audience participation – is played by a woman picked out from the front row (cue everyone waiting for the inevitable awkward kiss).

While the familiar romance is the least interesting element, there are some terrific sequences, including a human “revolve” for a keyboard (“because we’re in The Round”) and a fabulous number where the growing list turns into an epic celebration of everything that’s pretty damn good – or at least might be if you really thought about it. Whatever mood you’re in at the start, you’ll leave this beautiful auditorium (someone please add it to the list) feeling elated.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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