What do you love about the world? It might not be a question you ask yourself often enough but you could come up with a couple. If you really put your mind to it, as Jonny Donahoe’s character does in Every Brilliant Thing, you might be able to come up with more than one million. Hairdressers who listen to what you want, ham and mayo sandwiches, sunlight, staying up all night – things we may take for granted.
The unnamed narrator’s mother suffered from severe depression and attempted suicide when he was very young. Desperate to make her happy, he started the list of every brilliant thing he could think of. He tells us the story from the very first attempt, right through to his own realisation that he too, as an adult, might be in need some help.
Donahoe is exceptional, winding his way in and around the audience, chatting to us, inviting us to participate and creating a joyful and supportive atmosphere that has us laughing and totally engaged throughout. The script sweeps a lot into its embrace: depression, the shame associated with it, the experience of trying to help a sufferer and the subtle almost unnoticeable way depression infiltrates into a life, yet it remains funny and enjoyable throughout. This is testament to Duncan Macmillan’s acute understanding of other people, which is exhibited perfectly here. That a play about such a tragic topic can be so uplifting and life-affirming is an amazing achievement – well, it’s a brilliant thing.