Play lets its audience share reasons to live
Toronto actor Jenna-Lee Hyde is having a brilliant experience and she wants to share it with Calgarians.
Hyde is stepping into some big shoes to star in British playwright Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning play Every Brilliant Thing, which toured the United Kingdom and North America with British comedian Jonny Donahoe.
Donahoe’s version, which was turned into an HBO special, played at the One Yellow Rabbit High Performance Rodeo in 2017. Now Hyde will bring it to Calgary via Fire Exit Theatre and Burnt Thicket Theatre.
Every Brilliant Thing looks at depression, how it can lead to suicide attempts and how this impacts other family members. The narrator of the story explains how, as a young child, her mother’s depression escalated. Her father said it was because the girl’s mother couldn’t find anything worth living for. The little girl made sticky notes of all the brilliant, wonderful things in life like ice cream, rainbows, puppies, kung fu movies and shooting milk out of your nose.
Through the course of the performance, the narrator recounts how the mother’s depression became her own and how she really had to find those brilliant reasons to keep on living.
Macmillan’s play is infused with humour and the play itself reaches out to audiences, giving them sticky notes that they ’ll insert into the play when called upon. Hyde insists this is not audience participation but audience integration.
“It’s not something anyone should be afraid of. It’s the gentlest way of involving audience members. It’s what makes each performance unique,” says Hyde, who started this mini-tour in Saskatoon where she began her performance and writing careers.
She says Every Brilliant Thing is not really her show, but “rather it belongs to the audience. They give it its real life. I’m there to tell the story and to facilitate the magic thing that happens at every performance.”
Every Brilliant Thing was performed by Donahoe originally at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was such an enormous hit that it was invited for a fourmonth run in New York.
Hyde says she is excited to bring a female voice to the character.
“This is such a universal story that the sex of the narrator is not really an issue and I feel comfortable stepping into the character.
“It’s vital we talk about mentalhealth issues and how they impact not just the person dealing with them but everyone in their circle. So many of us can relate to what happens when we are taking care of a parent and forgetting to care for ourselves and how important it is to remember life is precious and worth living.”
Verb Theatre presented Macmillan’s play Lungs. Stephen Waldschmidt, who directs this version of Every Brilliant Thing, also directed We Are the Body, She Has A Name and Hockey Dad: A Play in Three Periods, for his Burnt Thicket Theatre in Calgary.
Every Brilliant Thing opens Fire Exit Theatre’s 17th season and runs in the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre Oct. 17 to 21 with performances Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $20 and $25 and are available at 403-640-4617 or online at email@example.com