“bizarrely moving and undeniably entertaining”

Sitting on the lawn in Durham School, watching a spectacularly bizarre piece of theatre was not how I envisioned my Saturday evening, but I am very glad it was. ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a one-actor performance that tackles the subject of loss, suicide, and family relationships from a very immersive angle. 

Upon sitting down, I was handed a slip of paper that read “23, Danger Mouse” and instructed to shout it out anytime I heard the number. This was not the end of the audience participation either. In a very intimate setting, the audience became part of the show, with the simple instruction of our leader, Ben Cawood. At first, I felt rather awkward waiting for my summons to join him on stage, but when the entire audience was also in on the joke, the awkwardness had a strangely entertaining aspect. Ben’s demeanour on stage immediately set everyone at ease and lead the audience through a deeply moving and meaningful performance. One of the best parts of the production was Ben’s reactions to the audience participation. It can often be challenging to guide the audience into saying the right lines, but even when the audience didn’t always do the right thing, Ben was immediately there with a gentle nudge or helping hand to guide us, as well as the odd witty remark when it didn’t go to plan. 

The use of sound was very well thought out. Every musical cue was hit without a moment’s hesitation, the operator did brilliantly at knowing how long to wait for the jokes to land or when to cut the music early. This was a very well-rehearsed production; both the actor and music director knew exactly when to move on. Even at the times, when Ben misread a number, he quickly recovered and found his confident voice again.

The staging of the production was incredibly clever – a very stripped-back production, with just a bench, a piano, and an assortment of paper scraps in a wheelbarrow. Ben Cawood used this to his advantage, performing to each individual side of the stage with as much enthusiasm as the others. The stage was turned into a car, a lecture hall and even a sock puppet theatre, all through Ben’s performance. I truly felt engrossed in this story, despite, or perhaps because, of it being in an outdoor garden. Truly the only thing holding this production back was the cacophonous noise from the cars as they passed behind us.

The best way to describe ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is bizarrely moving and undeniably entertaining. It’s not quite your traditional theatre experience – but it is definitely an experience and a half.

By Thomas Schofield

Every Brilliant Thing is playing at Grove Lawn, Durham School until Monday 20th June