There are endless brilliant things about Every Brilliant Thing. The play sees writer Duncan Macmillan reunited with Paines Plough following their critically acclaimed collaboration on Lungs. That play features alongside Every Brilliant Thing and two others as the company launches its brand new Roundabout Auditorium here in Edinburgh.
The Roundabout Auditorium needs no special skills to assemble and the idea is that anyone can help put it up with little more than an Allen key and a little elbow grease. The same could be said of the play, but instead of Allen keys, Every Brilliant Thing uses numbered cards and audience interaction to build a moving story about love and depression through the eyes of a child.
As we are settling down in our pink and yellow seats, we are handed a numbered card, some people more than one. On them, a brilliant thing. Jonny Donahoe is going to tell us a story and he wants us to help him. A story about a boy whose mum has done something stupid with contraceptive pills and wound up in hospital. She finds it hard to be happy. So he starts to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world and sends it to her, hiding it under her pillow when she’s not looking.
The numbered cards work as a sort of punctuation, book-marking some moments and providing a punchline to others. But their most important function is that they let us join in. They make our presence in the auditorium, here, now, completely necessary to the story being told. Making the list becomes not just a personal pursuit, but something we all help to create. And soon the list starts to take on a life of its own.
For some, theatre in the round is analogous with networks of power and the form often has an inherently confrontational character. But director George Perrin’s production maximises the form’s potential for connection with the audience both as individuals and collectives. Rarely will you encounter a more receptive response than the one Donahoe manages to create in the theatre. It is an atmosphere of unbridled warmth and enthusiasm which will leave you in a near-constant state of grinning.
Given that this is a play about depression, Macmillan wears his theme lightly. But he never ignores the complexities of suicide and the legacy it leaves behind. Like the contents of the list, it is genuinely wonderful and life affirming play. It is impossible not to love.
Every Brilliant Thing is at Summerhall @ Roundabout (Venue 26)until 23 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.