There’s not much that strikes fear into the heart of the intrepid theatre-goer, but the words “audience participation”, does exactly that. Even the harshest critic quakes in their seat at the thought of getting up and getting involved.
I am at The Marlowe Studio in Canterbury to see ‘Every Brilliant Thing’, a one man show about a boy who tells his suicidal mother all the reasons that it’s great to be alive. While we wait for the show to begin, Jonny Donahoe approaches members of the audience, handing out pieces of paper. We find ourselves amiably cajoled into reading out reasons 1654 and 1655.
Moments before we’re approached, my partner turns to face me, confessing that he is consistently chosen to participate from the audience, either at comedy gigs or theatre shows. It’s something to do with his genial face we decide, but our laughter dies in our throats twenty minutes later when we realise our pre-show exchange with Donahoe is about to lead to much more.
Performing in the round, Donahoe clearly knows how to manage an audience. The capacity for things to go terribly wrong is enormous, but he’s clearly able to turn any hesitance around in an instant to benefit the performance. Transforming from a Kit-Kat averse 7 year-old to a newlywed deftly, he’s a skilful actor, aided in no small part by the truthful writing of Duncan Macmillan.
The show is a gentle, sweetly comic take on the depression of a parent. For anyone who has known someone that struggles with mental illness, you’d imagine such a heavy topic could easily have them weeping in the aisles. Instead of that, I found myself smiling, nodding, and feeling quite charmed by it all.
Running for two nights only, the wonderful ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ remains at the Marlowe until 6 June. Having seen the wonderful ‘Fleabag’ here earlier in the year, it’s clear that someone in the programming team for the Studio is doing something very right.
For booking information and contact details for ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ head to our theatre listing.