Every Brilliant Thing – Play Review

“Imagine you had a dog, and suddenly you had to put it to sleep after 10 years of caring for it. How would you feel?” That’s the analogy used in Every Brillant Thing, a play by Bhumi Productions, used to describe a person who was lost to suicide. An audience member was asked to re-enact a scene as a vet using euthanasia to put the protagonist’s dog to sleep.




No offense intended here, it was just the scriptwriter’s way of describing the heartbreak experienced when a beloved family member passes away.

The play was engaging, interesting and immersive.  Audience members are led through the story of Johnny Dohnague, with a suicidal mother who has tried to take her life many times. At 7, we see through the lens of a young and naive boy with innocent eyes, with hopes and aspirations and dreams, and his list of “Brillant Things”. However, as the story unfolds, Johnny Donahue becomes a jaded and cynical teenager, frustrated with his mum for trying to commit suicide, and even dares her to use more “lethal” methods. He decided to tuck the list of “Brillant things” in a book, and even forgets about it as time passes. As Johnny Donahue enters university, he starts to contemplate his own mortality, and whether the same illness, the same fate that befell his mum, will befall him. He also begins to find true love, with a sweet and demure girl, Sam. Eventually, Johnny and Sam got married. However, cracks started to appear in their seemingly perfect marriage.  Eventually their marriage disintegrated, leaving Johnny to pick up the pieces of his life. With his mother’s eventual demise, will Johnny be able to find the pieces of happiness again?

This heartbreaking play really reveals the emotional turmoil faced by those who are depressed, as well as their caregivers. The ripple effect of depression has caused a devastating impact on Johnny’s life, and caused a rift in his marriage with Sam.

Recommended for: Caregivers of depression, People suffering from mental illness, people who want to know more about depression, general public.

The good:

1. (a) Audience participation was encouraged at all times. A member of the public was roped in to act as “Mr. Lim”, the counsellor with the sock puppet. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for the audience, “Mr. Lim” was a total buffoon. His acting was wooden and steely, and his Puppet, whom we shall call Mr “Mopper” (I forgot the name), did not provide decent counselling advice nor inspire him. “Mr. Lim” messed it up big time, and even forgot about the pupil whom he had counselled, and he told Johnny to talk to himself. He did not know how to help and he was clearly at his wits’ end. He did not even give any advice or gave condescending advice to his ex-pupil. It was so hilarious to watch, however, in reality, I have spoken to crisis counsellors on the line who were very unhelpful and unsympathetic.

(b) The part when a big and burly man steps into the shoes of Johnny was so funny. He kept pestering his father incessantly, with a whiny high-pitched coquettish voice “Why?”. And whenever his father(played by main lead) answered his question, he would be bombarded with more “Why”s?” It was so epic. I wonder if his “Father” ever ran out of reasons/excuses, or whether Johnny ran out of steam. I was holding my breath the entire time.

2. The singing and piano playing was spectacular, it was simply AMAZEBALLS. I didn’t expect the main lead to be able to play the piano, let alone play so well. His soulful crooning touched my heart, and it is bound to touch your heart too.  Songs like “The Scientist” will bring tears to your eyes.

3. Dramatic acting. The acting was right on point. How did the actor manage to remember so many items on the “List of Brilliant things”, and improvise whenever it was necessary?

4. I like the use of metaphors and similes and literary devices. I love Jodi Picoult’s writing as well as Prozac Nation. If you like books and movies and plays which aim to give you an immersive experience, you have come to the right place.  Remember “Show, Not tell.” They had multiple analogies for different things, and it added depth to the play.

5. The message of the play was quite clear. No hanky panky, no beating around the bush nonsense. Just simple, mesmerising, complex and captivating all at once.

6. The fact that they managed to turn a touchy and controversial topic into something deep, yet light-hearted and funny!


1. No refreshments or snacks were provided. It would have been good if there was a water cooler nearby, or if there were drinks provided. I was quite thirsty, and it would be very convenient to quench my thirst. Perhaps some souvenirs or a small goodie bag? If you know me, you know that I am a sucker for those.

2. Maybe they could have found a better way to incorporate the “List of Brilliant Things” in the play. The list was lost and found so many times, I already lost track of it. However, the main plot was intact and congruent, so props to the team!

3. More props and actors possibly? I think the props were sorely lacking, as there could have been more props to add dimension to the play. Also, if there was a hospital scene, it would be quite triggering for some, but it would be etched in everybody’s minds. Like maybe a hospital bed with his mum lying there with an IV drip? Also, they had to get the audience members to hold the piano.

Certain parts of the play dragged a bit too long, maybe it was used as fillers for the play.


1. Open concept, free seating play – Yep, you get to sit anywhere you like, and barriers between audience and cast members are minimised. No formal stage, nothing. If you have social anxiety, you will be a little concerned, because the audience were seated in a circle, and everyone can see each other.

2. Minimalistic, no frills concept – That is, if you don’t care about the bells and whistles, only the play.

Verdict: 3.8/5.

Well, 4 out of 5 if they had some refreshments or goodie bags. It is quite a brilliant play (pun intended), and I think you should check it out.

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