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| 26 August 2021 | Reply

Black Swan Theatre, Perth, Western Australia – 25th August, 2021
Written by Duncan MacMillan with Jonny Donahoe
Starring Luke Hewitt

By Shane Pinnegar

We cried true tears last night – equally from laughter, compassion and respect – as we experienced Luke Hewitt performing the one-handed play Every Brilliant Thing in the round at the State Theatre of Western Australia’s Studio Underground last night.

This is not a play where the audience sits back and observes, removed from the action or any emotional connection with the story or performer. This is an experience – immersive both physically for many, and emotional for everybody present.

The plot – written with great insight and on-point empathy by Duncan MacMillan with Jonny Donahoe – details our unnamed protagonists tumultuous relationship with his depressed and suicidal mother, and the effect that has on him through his adult mental health issues.

On paper that’s surely enough to put many off. Don’t let it.

It’s a bold thing to write a comedy about depression and suicide which never once punches downwards, becomes off-colour, or makes fun of or light of those struggling with mental health issues.

In fact, in a lesser performer’s hands Every Brilliant Thing may not have worked nearly as well. Hewitt plays it completely straight – never waiting to drop a punchline, never playing the self-deprecating card, merely inhabiting the character so perfectly, with such humanity and understanding that it is easy at times to forget that this isn’t really HIS story at all – that it is a fiction.

The key to that is that his character is so completely relatable. He is an everyman doing his best. A nice guy in a difficult situation. We’ve all been down – most of us depressed at some point in time – and many of us clinically so. Some may even have had suicidal thoughts.

Every Brilliant Thing uses true, sincere, side-splitting humour to encourage a conversation. If you notice a loved one struggling – and try to remember that depression is not always just constant misery, that it might be ups and downs, mood swings, masking negative thoughts with inappropriate behaviours – then talk to them. Encourage them, if needed, to talk to someone they trust or a professional. It can always get better – but we can’t always get there by ourselves.

I mentioned that the show was immersive. It starts in the foyer, where we are encouraged to pin post-it notes to a board after writing our “One Brilliant Thing” on them. Dogs – Love – Career breaks – Sunshine – Gaming – Friends – Our new house, and many more quickly dot the board as most present get into the spirit of the exercise.

As the audience begin to take their seats, Hewitt hands out cards to a fair proportion of them. The protagonist’s story involves starting a list after his childhood dog is euthanised – a list of Every Brilliant Thing.

“Number 1” cries Hewitt.
“Icecream” comes the reply from whichever audience member held the card saying “#1: Icecream”
“Number 2,” cries Hewitt.
“Water fights!” comes the reply from another part of the crowd.
And so forth.

Other entries include such specifics as ‘the anticipation of dressing up at a Mexican restaurant’ (not the actual dressing up, just the anticipation of doing so), and ‘giving someone a book and them actually reading it and loving it as much as you do,’ to more obvious universal truths as hugs, sex, surprises and the crackle of a stylus hitting the opening grooves of a record (“not being pretentious,” he explains entirely relatably to us, “records just sound better”).

And then there is the contributions of a handful of audience members, seemingly chosen at random by Hewitt and asked to step up and assist acting out certain scenes as – for instance – the vet who put his childhood dog down, his Dad, the teacher who provided early support in troubled times, and the love of his life, Sam.

Whether we struck the jackpot last night, or Hewitt’s easy-going-with-a-touch-of-mania charm will bring similar engagement from every volunteer throughout the show’s run is anyone’s guess, but these enthusiastic extra “performances” provided even more humanity, comedy and empathy than anyone could have hoped for. Bravo to all involved for playing along so well.

Every Brilliant Thing isn’t just insightful, clever and hilarious.

It isn’t just a tour de force by Luke Hewitt, who seems born to play the role.

It is an important work of art, once which has the power to make a difference to people’s lives. To destigmatise mental health issues. To get people talking and – hopefully – get them some understanding and the help that they need.

In a perfect world Every Brilliant Thing might secure funding to play to a wider audience – to tour high schools and regional areas and maybe – in a post-lockdown world – the country.

We could all do with some more of this sort of compassionate understanding and hilarity in our lives.


There are many resources available to anybody struggling with depression, addiction, or other mental health issues and needing support.

We suggest you start here:

Beyond Blue
1300 224 636

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Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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