‘Every Brilliant Thing’ review: ‘raw and unflinchingly honest’

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A play which confronts the darkest moments of life, Hild Bede Theatre’s ‘Every Brilliant Thing’
still manages to exude positivity and leave you with a smile on your face. It tells the story of
one person’s life, relationships and their list of all the wonderful things that make life worth
living: ‘ice cream’, ‘people falling over’ and ‘kind old people who aren’t weird and don’t
smell unusual’ to name but a few. Confronting themes of depression, suicide and
heartbreak it is a touching and honest play that triumphs in spreading a feel-good
atmosphere which continues well beyond the last line.

a touching and honest play

Perhaps audience participation are the last words you want to hear when you settle in for
an evening of entertainment watched comfortably from the sidelines, but Layla
Chowdhury’s narration leaves you in safe hands. She carries the play effortlessly, managing to
change from comedy to moments of profound sadness instantly, which leaves the audience
enraptured and involved in every word. The naturalness of her performance was perhaps a
little interrupted by the occasional faltered line, but she should be confident in knowing she
can carry mistakes through without correction as her seamless improvisations with the
audience members clearly demonstrate.

The moments of audience involvement that punctuate the play, however, are not just
comedic interludes but essential to the plot and often it is astonishing how convincing and
moving these interactions were, so much so that it is difficult to believe half of the audience
are not intentionally planted. The characteristically British anxiety of being picked to
participate fades away as you realise each one of you is in it together, which makes the
audience feel united in a vulnerability that allows the raw and unflinchingly honest themes
of the play to become all the more poignant and affecting.

a successfully thought-provoking production which is simultaneously sensitive, charming and convincing

The cosy setting of Cafedral assists the atmosphere of inclusivity and the complimentary tea
before the play begins is a lovely touch. There is no lighting change to signify the beginning
of the play, instead Chowdhury just moves to centre and begins to speak. Although this
might initially feel amateurish, it does run with the autobiographical potential of the play,
emphasising the sense that this is supposed to be a real-life story in a real-life situation
which we, the audience, are a part of. The music that permeates moments in the play is
moving, although Chowdhury’s responses to it are a little forced, it still generates an
authentic sentimentality which is transmitted to the audience in turn.

On the whole, ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a successfully thought-provoking production which is
simultaneously sensitive, charming and convincing. Rosie Dart must be praised for her
direction of the play and Maddie Lock’s artistic and technical touches are equally
triumphant. The confirmation of the play’s emotional effects is confirmed at the end of the
play, when the audience are invited to explore the ragged bits of cardboard and rubbish on
which some of the ‘brilliant things’ are written. The fact that every spectator began to root
through the boxes together and add their own items to the list stands testament to the
unifying and life-affirming ability of the play, which both Layla Chowdhury and the
production team have worked so hard to convey. So, ultimately, don’t be scared to go and
not only watch HBT’s latest production, but get involved – trust me, you’ll feel better for it.

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