Every Brilliant Thing is billed as a one-man show, but that’s not really true. It’s probable the sole rehearsed actor, Jonny Donahoe, will hand you a card to read after a certain cue, or will invite you on stage to improvise a scene.
Are you mortified at the suggestion of audience participation? This is different –you have to trust us.
The intimate show, presented in the round, begins with the British comedian’s character as a seven-year-old boy trying to understand why his suicidal mother has nothing to live for. He makes a list for her of “every brilliant thing” he can think of: ice-cream, people falling over, water fights.
As he grows older he habitually adds new items. Thousands of them. They change with time: waking up next to someone you love, a bongo solo in a Curtis Mayfield song. Eventually it gets hard to think of anything at all.
Donahoe is affable and familiar. He makes eye contact with each audience member. It feels less like a performance, and more like hearing a confessional story told by an old friend.
The show was co-written by Donahoe and Duncan Macmillan (the latter is behind Lungs, currently showing at Arts Centre). It feels raw and new on stage, but the show has been touring since 2013. It played acclaimed stints at the Edinburgh Fringe, had a 16-week-run in New York, and most recently showed at the Perth International Arts Festival.
Every Brilliant Thing is hilarious, warm and earnest. Because of this it disarms you in its blacker moments of grief. At some point during the show you’ll realise you’re enjoying a comedy about suicide and depression. It’s a strange thought: social stigmas still hold us back from being frank about depression in daily life, but it’s possible in a room full of strangers.
Every Brilliant Thing runs at Malthouse Theatre until March 20. Tickets available here.