Sheer brilliance in Every Brilliant Thing

Jonny Donahoe.
Jonny Donahoe.

EVERY Brilliant Thing is a production that lives up to its name.

Showing as part of this year’s Perth International Arts Festival program, the hour-long work opened last night and is like nothing I have experienced.

Performed in the round at State Theatre Centre of WA’s Rehearsal Room 1, the intimate black box theatre setting accommodated the play big on audience participation and laughs, despite covering the subject of suicidal depression.

The one-man show, written by Duncan Macmillan with performer Jonny Donahoe, follows the life of Jonny from age seven after his mum has “done something stupid”.

His coping mechanism is to set about writing a list for her of everything worth living for in the world, from rollercoasters and ice-cream to the smell of old books and listening to vinyl records.

Donahoe had the room captivated even before the start as he handed pieces of paper to various audience members who read their ‘listing’ at random times during the show when their number was called.

Participation was also required by some who represented pivotal people in his life, from his dad to teacher and first love.

Key to this format meant the house lights were never dimmed – a rarity in live performance, at first a little daunting, but imperative and soon enough no issue at all.

The fast-pace was as remarkable as being able to successfully write a show about depression that is also uplifting and funny.

Mirroring the mental illness, the production delivered in waves of joy and sadness as it followed Jonny’s journey from childhood through adolescence to adulthood while dealing with his mother’s struggle.

The show, first performed at England’s Ludlow Fringe Festival in 2013, does not alienate its audience; instead it wraps it in a comfortable blanket and makes depression an okay subject to discuss.

Jonny’s list featuring everything that is brilliant about the world reaches the million entry milestone by the end of the show, which arrives all too soon and made this reviewer want the life-affirming piece added to my own list.

List item 1,000,001 – production Every Brilliant Thing.

Every Brilliant Thing is on until Monday, February 15.