Every Brilliant Thing

Mental Health Story told with Warmth

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Note: This review contains spoilers. 

It’s difficult subject matter – depression and suicide. It’s certainly not funny. And yet, the audience is laughing as we watch the story of boy whose mother tries to take her own life and eventually does. 

And guess who creates the laughter in this play? It’s a one-man show, and in this case it’s performed by James Barrett at the Globus Theatre in the Lakeview Arts Barn near Bobcaygeon. Yes, Barrett’s character does provide much of the humour. But many laughs come from the audience members he conscripts to help him with the show.

The story begins with Barrett as a seven-year-old boy describing the first time he had to deal with death. His dog, named Sherlock Bones, had to be put down by the vet. The role of the vet was played by a woman in the audience who was ‘voluntold’. 

Then Barrett tells us about his mother’s first suicide attempt when he was still a young child.  His father picks him up at school to take him to the hospital, telling him his mother has “done a stupid thing”.  An audience member takes on the role of the father. 

That’s when the child starts his list. He decides it should make his mother happy if he makes a list of things to be happy about. He wants to list every brilliant thing. And so he begins: 1. Ice cream.  2. Water fights.  3. Stay up past bedtime to watch TV.  4. The colour yellow. 5. Things with stripes. 6. Rollercoaster. 

The list goes on and on, with the little boy adding more and more brilliant things. He leaves it for his mother to read, but she doesn’t comment on it. She just circles his spelling errors. Later he tries to read his list to her, but she walks into another room. Audience members are given numbered cards to read aloud, with items he adds to the list. It is heartwarming to hear the boy’s list, even if it doesn’t seem help his mother.

A woman in the audience is asked to be the counsellor he visits at school to help him understand. On opening night, there was a very cooperative audience member who agreed to take off one shoe and sock. The sock becomes a puppet who talks to the boy. 

As he grows up, an audience member plays his girlfriend and she becomes the love of his life. When she finds his list she adds to it, which renews his ambition to list every brilliant thing. Eventually he suffers from the same depression that his mother had and his marriage is strained. And yet, through the depression of both the mother and son, we are left with hope. 

James Barrett is as brilliant in the one-man play as the list of every brilliant thing he creates. He is comfortable as the storyteller, and we feel as if we grow up with him as he ages and continues sharing the list. Barrett is also excellent in selecting appropriate audience members to play different parts. His improvisational skills are put to the test as he gives witty replies to his impromptu characters on stage. He also prompted and coached a few participants to keep the play on track. 

Globus Theatre is a dinner theatre, making use of the spacious Lakeview Arts Barn to seat patrons at distanced tables with all Covid protocols met. As usual, the dinners are delicious – and generous with appetizer, main course and dessert. 

The play will stay with you for the next few days. You’ll recall suicides and what you might have done to prevent it.  You’ll wonder how things could be resolved for this character. Barrett’s performance will leave you with food for thought.  The pre-show dinner will satisfy your actual appetite.

Every Brilliant Thing continues at the Globus Theatre, Lakeview Arts Barn near Bobcaygeon, until October 30.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 705-738-2037 or 1-800-304-7897 or visit https://www.lakeviewartsbarn.com/globus-current-season

Photo: James Barrett in the one-man show, Every Brilliant Thing.  Photo by Rebecca Anne Bloom. 

Every Brilliant Thing
By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Sarah Quick
Performed by James Barrett
Globus Theatre, Lakeview Arts Barn, Bobcaygeon
October 21 to 30, 2021
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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