Every Brilliant Thing
by Duncan Macmillan
Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh
Tackling the problem of his mum’s sadness and failed suicide attempt with childlike simplicity: Duncan Macmilan’s seven year-old protagonist starts making a list of all the good things in the world. Friendly cats. Waterfights. Chocolate. Danger Mouse. This beautiful, heart wrenching and very funny one-man script is the funniest play you’re ever likely to see about depression, and also the most moving.
Staged in Paines Plough’s new portable Roundabout auditorium – which can be assembled in each new place it visits using only an Allen key and powered solely using 13 amp plugs. Immensely likeable actor Jonny Donahoe begins by handing slips of paper with entries from the numbered list to members of the audience.
After his mum “done something stupid”, our nameless host starts a list of every brilliant thing he can think of in the world. When he reaches 300, he leaves the list on his mother’s pillow to show her that there is plenty to stay alive for. The list becomes an obsession that carries on for years and as the boy goes through adolescence, university and even his first love, so does his list. (continuing until he reaches a million brilliant things to live for.)
Spaghetti bolognese. The colour yellow. Having a piano in the kitchen. Ice Cream. Sex. The first time you listen to a new vinyl record. Hairdressers who listen to what you want. The way Ray Charles says “You”. The list continues and as it does, we are reminded, as an audience to take stock, reflect upon the good and simple things in life, and savour them.
Making the list becomes not just a personal pursuit, but something we all help to create. Our presence in the auditorium is completely necessary to the story being told. With cards to read, props to lend and even the occasional character to simulate.
Macmillan’s uplifting play about depression looks both at ways of helping to overcome the illness, and the complete helplessness we feel when a loved one spirals uncontrollably towards the end.
A truly beautiful and brilliant play.