By Carly Fisher
I’ll start where it ended – a full standing ovation from the entire audience – sat in the round – at the Belvoir Street Upstairs Theatre. Last night was opening night for their latest show, Every Brilliant Thing, a one woman show starring Australian theatrical gem, Kate Mulvany, that chronicles the life of a young woman who has, although living in the shadows of her mother’s depression since age 7, found a way to focus her life on all the small things that often go overlooked but that make the world truly marvellous.
It is important to note that the show contains strong themes of suicide and depression and, as the theatre warns, this show is not appropriate for those who may find this triggering.
To me, this show is finally a piece of theatre unafraid to tackle these hefty themes with a lightness that in no way detracts from the severity of the themes, but instead makes them okay to talk about. Mulvany leads the audience through a story that has us laughing at her superb humour and comic timing throughout, but still allows us to walk away having learnt more about the darkness of depression and suicide and the impacts that it has on those around. No doubt, this show will not be for everyone as this approach may be divisive, however, at a time where there is such need to destigmatize these conversations on mental health and encourage people to reach out, this is a piece of theatre that warmly embraces the opportunity to encourage discussion.
As a young girl, Mulvany’s unnamed character was exposed to death only by the loss of her childhood pet prior to her mother’s first suicide attempt. Unsure of how to help, the young girl begins a list to number every brilliant thing she sees in the world in the hopes that this list will help lift the haze of depression that clouds her mother from being able to appreciate these small things. It starts simply. 1. Ice cream.
The list is something that she picks up and puts down throughout her life. Initially determined to hit 1000, we see by the end how far and wide the list has truly grown. As she grows we see how detailed these list entries become and as such, we watch her develop, learn, succeed and fail. We track her life through the list entries and the stories she shares throughout.
Performed in the round, this performance relies heavily on Mulvany’s great ability to engage an audience, and the refined skilfulness of Kate Champion and Steve Rodgers’ direction. With lots of audience interaction, this skilful master of the stage warmly approaches the audience and guides them through their own starring moments. There are few lighting changes – the house lights are up throughout and Mulvany makes use of the entire theatre as her stage. Grabbing props from the audience, as well as a few off stage items that she brings into this world, there is no set, just Mulvany and her highly attentive audience. Music clips make up the soundscape of this production, although when Mulvany sings herself, the importance of this music is so much more relevant.
For a show with heavy themes, this production is surprisingly light and entertaining. That is not to say however that important messages are not covered and Mulvany’s reading of the journalistic guidelines on how to cover a suicide is a list of things that I believe we all should hear. Her character’s advice is simple, ‘don’t do it,’ she pleads, and her bringing up of the gender-assumptions around suicide I think is a conversation that we need to see more of.
Duncan Macmillan hasn’t provided a hard-hitting script, but he hasn’t intended to either. He has done something much more beneficial with his platform as an artist, he has called on us as the audience to take over the hard-hitting aspects by walking out of the theatre and talking about it more. Talk about suicide, talk about depression and also talk about the things that make this world the amazing place that it really is. Macmillan reminds us never to over look the simple things that make life brilliant.
Photo Credit: Brett Boardman
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.