Christmas has moved into a brave new world at the Belfry Theatre, with Every Brilliant Thing.
You might not think a play about depression and suicide would put you in the Christmas spirit, but playwrights Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe believe it will, with this cogent script.
Having said that, Dawn Petten, the only actor in this short, but intense piece of theatre, is quite brilliant. Her character’s way of navigating through the difficulty of her mother’s condition is to make lists of positive things.
To help her with this, Petten circulated in the lobby prior to the show, handing out bits of paper with a number and an item. When she later calls a number from the stage (or anywhere in the auditorium) the person with that number shouts out the item.
In addition to this, she picked various audience members to play parts. The gentleman sitting next to me was chosen to be the vet putting her beloved dog to sleep – another scenario somewhat contrary to the season of joy and festivities.
Other people step up as her father, her fiancé, her counsellor, her university professor and so on. Here is where audience participation can swing the balance. If you have lots of audience members who can speak clearly enough to be heard in the theatre without a microphone, you have a winner. Otherwise, you have confusion.
Petten manages to hold it all together somehow; at the end of the 75 minutes, she gets through all the highs and lows of her life, still with the audience in the palm of her hand.
Brian Linds, as the sound designer, does a good job of keeping everything going, but sometimes the pitch of the songs he plays drown out the voices of the participants. The recreated stage is beautifully constructed – if you have seats for the balcony, you will be sitting on it, so be prepared!
If you have an adventurous spirit and are not locked in to the traditional Christmas warm and fuzzies, you will enjoy this remarkable show, which runs until Dec. 22. For tickets visit belfry.bc.ca or call 250-385-6815.