Andrew Chandler in Every Brilliant Thing, at the Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen St., through Sunday, 8 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday. (Stoo Metz)
Every Brilliant Thing is a tender, extremely funny play about depression and suicide with a wonderful, participatory approach to storytelling.
Created by British author Duncan Macmillan with stand-up comic Jonny Donahoe, the 75-minute play is told in the round at the Bus Stop Theatre with Andrew Chandler leading the audience on a heart-warming, shared journey.
This intimate show is a stunning challenge for an actor. This production by Halifax’s Kick at the Dark Theatre, directed by Emily Jewer, makes it all seem effortless.
Andrew Chandler is adorable and adept at putting his audience at ease as he plays, at first, a seven-year-old boy whose mother has attempted suicide. To give her something to live for, he starts a list of “every brilliant thing.”
The audience has already been given slips of paper with list items to read out loud and they continue to do so as the list and the child grow over the years into adulthood and its challenges.
Amazingly at last night’s performance Chandler had no trouble engaging audience members in helping him animate his story. They were really good and really funny and the feeling of shared storytelling, of the need to work together to get this important story told, was uplifting.
Metaphorically the style suits the play’s message that people share experiences of depression and suicide and need to both ask for support and give support.
The humour and the writer’s restraint help an audience pull back from the raw pain of the subject matter. There is a trained mental health first aider in the audience if anything acts as a trigger. Last night the death of the family dog became an incredibly moving scene for its participant as she patted a coat that had become the ailing dog.
Director Emily Jewer working with Chandler understands the needs of this play and makes it flow smoothly with good sight lines. Music on vinyl is important with the dad’s love of jazz and the mother’s love of Ray Charles. At one point Chandler plays a keyboard moved in a revolve by two audience members; it’s almost a throwaway that he can sing so well and bring a rare family party to blazing life.
There’s a lot on right now – 2b’s Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story has just been extended to Nov. 23 at Neptune Theatre, the Eastern Front Theatre/Zuppa Theatre Co. site-specific co-production Tiny runs to Nov. 17 at Scotia Square – but I promise given the right audience conditions that spending those 75 minutes with Chandler at the Bus Stop will be unforgettable and healing.
Every Brilliant Thing is on through Sunday, 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday. This performance is recommended for 13 and up. Tickets are $25 + tax, with discounts for students, artists and the underwaged, through http://www.tickethalifax.com. For more information on the show go to https://www.facebook.com/events/692820941228533.