I didn’t know quite what to expect from this show. Together with my companion we took our seats in the audience and to our surprise the performer Kate Mulvany – it’s a one woman show – was already on stage, looking relaxed and chatting to members of the audience. She was handing out pieces of paper to them, the significance of which would soon be revealed..
The show started with the house lights still on and they were kept on throughout the performance.
The show works on a number of levels. It charts the journey of a young girl to a young woman growing up in a family with mental illness. Her mother is mentally ill, and attempts to take her life a number of times till the inevitable happens.
The young girl has it tough still early on she comes up with an idea which keeps her going. She – the girl is anonymous- starts a list of all the things that make her feel good, gives her joy, her brilliant things. A list she can turn to when she is feeling down. A list that she shares with her mother, hoping that it will give her the much needed boost she needs.
She numbers the list and this is where the notes that she has handed to audience members come into play. Kate calls out the number and the audience member says out loud what the brilliant thing is. The notes were passed around ‘democratically’ through the audience so a broad cross section of the audience become involved.
The show built up momentum quickly. What Kate also did was to get some audience members to become characters in her story, for instance different audience member become her Dad, her school teacher, her university boyfriend and so on…
This is a brilliant production by Kate Champion and co-director Steve Rodgers. The play is the brainchild of Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, who has also performed the play. I can see why the play has been performed more than six hundred times over four continents.
I responded to the play on a very personal level because one of my favourite books that I own is lexicologist Barbara Ann Kipfer’s ‘14,000 things to be happy about’ The book was first published in 1990. It’s fascinating to think that this play might have grown out of her book.
In it the writer compiles a list, a compendium of things which give her joy. She compiled it over a 20 year period. It comes in at 600 pages. Exactly the kind of list that takes place in the play, except Kate list climbs to a million things!
This was such a good theatre experience. I know that it had its parameters but it felt very spontaneous. It could have even had a longer reach. Considering the interactive aspect of the show, what if Kate had reached out to members of the audience and asked what were some of their brilliant things?! That would have added even another dimension in audience interaction.
Any how, this is a hot ticket. The show is wondrous and brilliant as is Kate Mulvany’s performance. EVERY BRILLIANT THING is playing upstairs at Belvoir Street Theatre until the 31 March, 2019.