Every Brilliant Thing



Roundabout@Summerhall (Venue 26)

6 – 28th Aug, not Tuesdays




This uproarious, glorious, joyful, life-affirming show deals in an extraordinarily moving way with the subject of depression and suicide.


Jonny Donahoe is simply brilliant – warm, funny, moving, and uplifting as he tells us the story of his life, which takes a dramatic turn on 9th November 1987.  His mum usually collects him from school, but on this day he’s met by his dad, who tells him his mum is in hospital.  Until that day, the worst thing he’s had to deal with is his dog, Ronnie Barker, having to be put down: now his mum has attempted suicide for the first time.  Jonny is only seven: he decides to make a list of Every Brilliant Thing he can think of to cheer his mum up.  The list grows, and is put away, at various points in his solitary life: we see him growing up, learning to cope with his dad and his moods by carefully noticing which particular type of jazz records he’s playing, going away to uni and for the first time in his life seeing someone for whom he wants to emerge from his isolation, and finally learning to put a name to the feeling that he’s not really been aware of but which has been with him for most of his life – depression.


Johnny himself is superb, and his energy and enthusiasm encourage invited members of the audience to play their parts in the narrative of his life.  Some simply read out one of the things on the continually growing list of Brilliant Things [which eventually passes the one million mark]: others give sterling performances as major characters.  Special mention has to go to his dad; Mrs Paterson, his counsellor at school, with her sock dog, Barney; and the outstandingly lovely Sam, the girl in the university library.  I particularly appreciated Jonny’s brilliant put-down of Goethe’s the Sorrows of Young Werther, which when first published created a mass copycat suicide sensation [“I read it, and it was shit”].


Words fail me – it was absolutely fantastic, deserves five or more stars: everyone should go and see it, preferably more than once…  There were howls of delighted laughter throughout and a storm of applause at the end of the show.  Go tell all your friends, and beat a path to Roundabout@Summerhall’s door – the show was sold out, and tickets will probably become rarer than hen’s teeth…


Then go out and start making your own list of Every Brilliant Thing you can think of that lights up your world, and share it with everyone you know!



Mary Woodward