Adelaide Festival

Festival Review: Every Brilliant Thing

This is a one-man show that details the extent people will go to to retain hope and happiness in their everyday lives in the face of crippling depression.

Presented by Adelaide Festival 2017
Reviewed 14 March 2017

This is a one-man show that details the extent people will go to to retain hope and happiness in their everyday lives in the face of crippling depression.

You’re six years old and your father has just told you that your mum is in hospital because she has “done something stupid”. You write a list for her of everything brilliant in this world, everything that is worth living for: 1. Ice cream, 2. Kung Fu Movies, 3. Burning Things…

This is the world the audience is introduced to; the life of a child, and then a teenager, and then an adult, dealing with a suicidal mother and a depression that swallows you whole. From the first experience of death (the family dog being put down), to a first, awkward love – the audience witnesses these key life moments and although the subject matter is sombre, the delivery is engaging and often light-hearted and down-right funny.

British actor James Rowland is absolutely fantastic, holding the audience’s attention for the entire hour, as well as maintaining a high level of energy which is critical as the show rests entirely on his shoulders. You can tell Rowland is a natural story-teller as he effortlessly balances a light-hearted humour that has the audience chuckling throughout the show with a poignant sadness about the realities of depression and suicide.

Every Brilliant Thing feels more like a casual conversation than a traditional theatre performance and part of this is because the audience plays a large part in the show. Throughout the performance Rowland relies on audience members to not only play important figures in his life (his teacher, father, wife), but also contributing “brilliant things” when their numbers are called out, so be prepared to participate.

The stage itself also contributes to the casual conversational feel as there isn’t a conventional stage and divide with the audience, rather just a square space in the middle of the audience that Rowland takes control of. This helps in breaking down any barriers between the audience and the performer which creates an intimacy that suits his interactive storytelling style.

Music also plays a large part in Every Brilliant Thing as it seems to be part of a strong connection between the protagonist and his parents. From the fun, get-up-and-dance Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield, to older, more poignant songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and Etta James. Rowland even plays the keyboard at one point (which he of course has audience involvement in doing), all of which builds up the picture of his family.

This is a truly beautiful show that will remind you that in the face of harsh realities there are always brilliant things to keep you going.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Venue:  Space Theatre, Festival Drive, Adelaide
Season:  14 – 18 March
Duration:  60 mins
Tickets:  $25 – $39



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