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Muddy Reviews: Every Brilliant Thing (coming to Chichester)

You know it’s a good show when you find yourself crying and laughing at the same time. Every Brilliant Thing is a condundrum. It’s sad and it’s joyous. It’s serious, sensitive and silly. I saw it at Worthing last week and it will be in Chichester on 22 Sept so if that’s near you, I urge you to go along.

“The list started after her first attempt…” So opens the story at the heart of this one-man show in which an adult looks back. He tells us how when his depressed mum tried to kill herself, his seven-year-old self responded by making a list for her of every brilliant thing that made life worth living. Things like ice-cream, Dangermouse and being allowed to stay up late to watch TV. Things that in retrospect probably didn’t hold the same excitement for an adult. As he grows, the list grows with our hero and becomes important to him in other ways.


The play, if it could be called that, is intimate and cleverly inventive and I was unsurprised to learn that it had started as a Fringe show. You sit in the round and there is heavy audience participation – I read something out and leant a book at one point, others were drawn into hilarious role plays. I don’t want to give too much away but don’t be put off by this aspect. No one who takes part has to reveal anything of themselves, they just help the story along by asking questions or holding props. The biggest laughs of the show come from the audience interaction.


photo by Michaela Bodlovic

Most of us were presented with an entry from the list just before the show and asked to read it when our number came up. The memory of actor Jonny Donahoe (who co-wrote the play with Duncan Macmillan) for these figures is impressive. He jumps about on the list mentioning say number 35 before 992 and has to remember which numbers people have and where in the story to insert them. (He’s also a surprisingly good singer).


The performance is just an hour long and I’d have happily sat through the same time again to watch the story further evolve. It’s ticketed for ages 12 plus at Chichester and there were several teens in the audience on the night I went. I’d say it would certainly appeal across a wide age spectrum.

At heart the show remains serious so, no, our hero’s mum isn’t magically cured by his sweet intervention. We are reminded that depression is complex and that it’s common for friends and relatives to feel a sense of guilt. It also touches on suicide as a social contagion and how the media’s reporting of high profile suicides can have devastating private consequences.

This responsible handling of the subject continued into the lobby where there were leaflets from mental health charities.

…and there was a surprise treat of a brilliant thing right at the end that I couldn’t possibly reveal that had everyone leaving with smiles on their faces.


Every Brilliant Thing is at The Chichester Showroom on 22 Sept, 01243 816000, Adult tickets cost £10.


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