Review By Margaret Thanos
The rerun of Every Brilliant Thing at Belvoir Street Theatre, directed by Kate Champion and it’s star Steve Rodgers, is a well-written and heartfelt exploration of the effect suicide has on the loved ones of someone who takes their own life. The immersive piece builds a sense of community between the performer and the audience, and warms the heart by encouraging appreciation of the great things about life.
Every Brilliant Thing follows the journey of an unnamed character coping with having a suicidal parent. The character, portrayed by Steve Rodgers, is seven years old during his mother’s first suicide attempt. To cope with this, he makes a list of ‘every brilliant thing’ that life has to offer. This list, and the effects of his mother’s depression, stays with the character throughout his entire life, exploring the long term effects that being a secondhand victim of suicide and depression can have on a person.
Duncan Macmillian and Jonny Donahoe’s script is easily the highlight of this show. The writing is so simple, but takes us on a journey through the character’s life. We rise with their highs and fall with each suicide attempt that the character’s mother faces. It is the story of one person, that speaks to so many people in this room. According to the Black Dog Institute, mental illness affects one in five Australians in any given year. Audience members shed tears over the impact suicide had on Rodgers’ character. The show made it’s point there and then - if mental illness is so common, why is it so rarely discussed?
The script is written to ensure the performer interacts with their audience. It aims to build a sense of community within a space that is usually split by the actor-audience divide. For me, this community feel is a rare thing in theatre, and it was so beautifully incorporated into the character’s story. Ordinary people got up and played the different characters in his life, and this sense of spontaneity added to the overall feel of the show. One of the brilliant things about life is the sense of the unexpected, and this show gave its audience that. Belvoir Street is such an adaptable space, and Isabel Hudson’s in-the-round setting aided the community feel that the performance had.
Steve Rodgers executes the performance well, his strength being his ability to be personable and his classic Aussie charm. Average middle-aged Australians attending this show can see themselves in him. However, the more dramatic side of his performance did occasionally feel forced. As a young person occasionally I was brought out of the show as I knew none of the continual music references that were made, but there was a solace in this story being set in the past, presenting a hopeful view for the future.
Every Brilliant Thing does not suggest that a list of every good thing about the world will prevent depression or suicidal thoughts, but it was a heartwarming reminder to focus on the small positives in a world where every day can seem like our circumstances are becoming continuously more dire. This show encourages the open discussion of mental health issues, a topic that is still taboo even today (although much progress has been made), and that reaching out for help is never a sign of weakness, but one of great strength.
If you are struggling with mental illness, please contact:
Lifeline offers a 24 hour counselling service and can be reached at 13 11 14. Additional information can be found on their website, www.lifeline.org.au. Other services which may be of assistance include mental health advocacy organisation, Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.org.au, 1300 224 636), and youth mental health foundation, Headspace (www.headspace.org.au). You may also consider speaking to a trusted source or engaging your local GP
Image 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.