REVIEW: Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillian – – Belvoir St Theatre, Jan 10 – 26 2020

1 year ago
Joshua Maxwell

Every Brilliant Thing makes it’s triumphant return to Belvoir after it’s acclaimed 2019 Season. I missed it then, but I promised myself I wouldn’t miss it this time around. I’m struggling to find the words that do just this production, that don’t already feature in it’s title but I can’t – it’s Brilliant.

Duncan Macmillan’s retrospective tale tells the story of the life of a child whose mother has made multiple suicide attempts and the effect it had on their own mental health. Upon their mothers first attempt they begin to create a list of every brilliant thing, 1. Ice-cream, 2. Water Fights… As the attempts continue the list grows, as the young person’s grows up the list grows, as they met their future partner the list grows, as they grow apart the list grows, and so on, until the list contains one million brilliant things.

The work, has no interval, is performed predominantly under house lights, and staged ‘in the round’, and perhaps horrifyingly for some, including this reviewer, – contains audience participation, but it’s delivered in an entirely unique way; from audience members being asked to ad-lib words of wisdoms at the characters darkest moments, to reading excerpts from the list when called. It’s also somehow feels natural, and un-intruding, and despite my mortal fear of being the one called, I almost wish I was by the end.

Kate Champion has shown herself to be a visionary director, she’s sensitively, and carefully directed the work so that it feels part monologue, part play, and part therapy session. And given everything going on in the world right now, that last one is the most warmly welcomed. Champion’s direction has taken a script made of gold, and crafted a striking piece of art, with it’s form being left open to the audience’s interruption.

Steve Rodgers, plays ‘Narrator,’ he is as tender, as he is hilarious, by the end he almost feels like a life-long friend. His performance never falters, and his empathy never waivers. He seems to find the right moments to look towards one part of the audience, finding that person who might need to hear that moment more directly.

To the untrained eye, it might seem as if the lights never alter, but Amelia Lever-Davidson’s sophisticated lighting design complements the work beautifully, while the audience are never fully plunged into darkness, the world around Rodgers becomes more and less vibrant as the story unfurls. I often find safety in the darkness of theatres, yet under Lever-Davidson’s design I found solace.

I was unsure how I would feel after this work, myself sympathetic. [If i’m entirely honest with you dear reader, the reason I missed this work last time is because I was recovering from mental health issues of my own.] When attending events often I struggle with anxiety, especially at opening galas when it’s a room full of colleagues, but with this work during it’s 80 minute run time I forgot all that. Upon leaving the theatre I wasn’t surprised those feelings began to seep back in, but it made me feel seen, and more comfortable in my own mind. It wasn’t the effect I thought it would have, but it was certainly a welcome one.

I tell you this, as I told almost every person on my contact list on the trip home – go and see this show, it’s possibly one of the best plays you’ll ever see. It’s perhaps not the job a of reviewer to thank a company, but I simply must, Thank You Belvoir, Thank you.

– Joshua Maxwell

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If you or someone you know is struggling, there is always help.

Lifeline offers a 24 hour counselling service and can be reached at 13 11 14. Additional information can be found on their website, Other services which may be of assistance include mental health advocacy organisation, Beyond Blue (, 1300 224 636), and youth mental health foundation, Headspace (

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