Guest contributor Paul T. Davies reviewed Every Brilliant Thing at the Lakeside Theatre on Thursday 29th October for Keep Colchester Cool.


Once again I was privileged to see this extraordinary play, this time at another sold out performance at Lakeside Theatre at the University of Essex. It’s hard to say concisely why a play about suicide and depression can be so uplifting, but this play should be available on the NHS! When his mum first attempts suicide when he is seven, a boy begins to keep a list of every brilliant thing in life to cheer her up. (Number 1-Ice cream.) He keeps the list going at various points in his life, and Jonny Donahoe’s (pictured) warm, wonderful performance involves the whole audience, and you emerge reflecting on how brilliant life actually is.

The play first appeared at the Edinburgh festival last year, and that’s when I first encountered this production. Seeing it for the third time, I also got to truly appreciate Donahoe’s superb improvisation skills. He enlists the audience to help him tell his story, with unsuspecting audience members recruited to play a vet (to put down his beloved dog, Ronnie Barker), his father, school teacher, lecturer, and, most of all, his girlfriend and subsequent wife, Sam. (A gorgeous performance by the audience member here). No one is briefed beforehand, but by chatting to and welcoming the audience, he obviously follows his instincts and knows who to select!

Duncan MacMillan’s script takes the audience from full out laughter to poignant silence in the space of seconds, and such a difficult subject is dealt with so sensitively it stays with you long after- a year and a half in my case! Excellent use of music lifts and soars the journey towards the millionth Every Brilliant Thing- and that one is true and utterly brilliant. We may never see this show again as the tour is coming to a close. If it ever comes near again, you must go and see it. On my list of every brilliant thing would be Every Brilliant Thing!

This was one of an exciting programme of theatre at Lakeside this autumn. Next up I highly recommend Tim Crouch’s extraordinary one man play I, Malvolio, which plays on the 12th of November. You will never look at Twelfth Night in the same way!


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