Samoa House TAP Studio, Auckland

06/11/2020 - 06/12/2020

Te Poho o Whirikoka, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Gisborne

09/10/2020 - 10/10/2020

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2020

Production Details

Writer: Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Co-directors: Jason Te Kare, Danielle Cormack

Silo Theatre

A show about everything in life that’s funny and joyous and sad, and all of those things at once.

The funniest play you’ll see about depression, Duncan Macmillan’s and Jonny Donahoe’s life-affirming production takes an unflinching look at the guilt of not being able to make those we love happy.

You’re seven years old. Dad’s picked you up late from school. He says that Mum’s done something stupid. That she’s hurt herself because she’s sad. So you start to write a list, on Post-it notes. A list of every brilliant thing in the world. Years pass, decades disappear, and the list takes on a life of its own — because there are plenty of brilliant things in the world, if you just know where to look.

Every Brilliant Thing is a warm, deep hug of a play, a story about depression, loss and finding all the beautiful things in your life – whether it’s ice cream, water fights or laughing so hard you snort milk through your nose.

“One of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression – and possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.” – Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.

“When I first encountered Every Brilliant Thing I was utterly taken by how a piece of theatre that dealt with mental health and suicide could be as uplifting as it is moving.” – Danielle Cormack, co-director.

Te Poho o Whirikoka, Te Wananga o Aotearoa
Friday 9th & Saturday 10th Oct 2020
General Admission $25 + fees
General Admission (Friends) $22.50 + fees
Concession $22.50 + fees
Want to purchase in person? Drop in and see the team at the Gisborne iSite (Grey St, Gisborne).

SAMOA HOUSE, 283 Karangahape Road, Auckland
6th Nov – 6th Dec 2020
(5th Nov: Preview)
Tues-Sat: 7pm
Sun: 5pm
No show on Fri 4th Dec.
0800 BUY TIX

PLEASE NOTE: Every Brilliant Thing contains adult themes and references to self-harm and suicide and is recommended for ages 15 and above.

The licence for this theatre production was granted by CASAROTTO RAMSAY & ASSOCIATES LTD (CASAROTTO.CO.UK) on behalf of the writer Duncan Macmillan.

World Premiere produced by Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company on 28 June 2013 at Ludlow Fringe Festival.

Anapela Polata'ivao
Jason Te Kare

Lighting Design by Rachel Marlow
Sound Design by Leon Radojkovic.

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 15 min

A flawless production

Review by Ethan Sills 18th Nov 2020

As is the case for much this year, little of what Silo Theatre had planned for Every Brilliant Thing when they announced the show last December has worked out as planned.  

Its premiere last week came two months later than originally planned, moved from Q Theatre to Samoa House, with original stars Danielle Cormack and Robbie Magasiva swapped out for Anapela Polata’ivao and Jason Te Kare.

Cormack is still involved in this resurrected production, but in true post-lockdown fashion, she is co-directing alongside from Sydney alongside Te Kare. It’s been a long journey to get this to stage, but the wait has been worth it, Silo Theatre delivering a flawless production that justifies the effort it would have taken to raise the curtains.

Polata’ivao took the starring role on opening night … [More


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Performing Mental Health

Review by Jennifer Cheuk 09th Nov 2020

I often dislike how the topic of mental health is dealt with in a lot of film, literature or theatre. I feel it is contrived and sensationalised and completely misunderstood. However, Every Brilliant Thing is one of the very few shows I have seen that maintains a respectful and empathetic discourse around mental health. It celebrates life whilst also understanding the complexities of mental health. There was not one moment where I felt the realities of depression and suicide were disregarded. I loved Every Brilliant Thing because it was real. It is full of life and love and, at its core, is a sensitive discussion about mental health.  

Written by Duncan Macmillan, Every Brilliant Thing is told from the perspective of an unnamed character whose mother has depression. The performance follows the life of this character as they try to cope with the situation in various stages of his life. The play is centred around the list of “Every Brilliant Thing” this character begins as a child in an attempt to make their mum happy. The list contains everything from ice cream to water fights to laughing so hard you snort milk up your nose. [More]  


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Touching, hilarious and honest

Review by Heidi North 08th Nov 2020

Silo Theatre’s latest production, Every Brilliant Thing, tackles the serious issues of depression and suicide* with supreme grace, walking the tightrope between humour and earnestness that signals deeply honest writing, and which requires a brilliant performer to take the role.

A solo show, created in collaboration with the audience every night, Silo theatre’s production alternates between two performers, Jason Te Kare and Anapela Polata’ivao. The evening we attend is Jason’s turn. Given his stellar performance, I leave the theatre immediately curious to seek a second viewing, in part because it was so enjoyable and partly to experience Anapela in the role.**

Every Brilliant Thing begins with a seven-year-old trying to make sense of their mum’s depression and suicide attempt. In response they begin a list of all the things worth living for. Number 1: ice cream.  

This list grows as they do, worked on over many years. It is truly a wonderful celebration of all the tiny and large things that bring us joy, from “things with stripes” to nuanced items such as, “the prospect of getting dressed up as a Mexican wrester” – with an emphasis on the prospect being the thing to find joy in, not even the act itself.

Written by English playwright Duncan Macmillan and the play’s original performer, British comedian Jonny Donahoe, the play has the feel of a text that, through many iterations, has landed on its perfect script. There is little wonder it has been so well received since premiering in the UK in 2014.

Despite the many challenges of Covid, the Silo team are to be commended for producing such an outstanding performance. In this brave new world we are all inhabiting, director Danielle Cormack zoomed in from Australia, and Jason Te Kare (also credited as a director) and Anapela Polata’ivao stepped into the role after the original actor cast was stuck in Australia due to lockdown. The team have done a great job in bringing such a production to life and it’s a treat too, to see a theatre piece in Samoa House’s Fale.

The staging is stripped back to the essence of storytelling: a simple set-free production with Jason unadorned in ordinary clothes. And when he requires props, about half of these are provided by the audience. The generosity of live co-creation in the theatre is enhanced by the seating, which is in the round. The house lights essentially never go down, meaning we are all present and aware of each other in the space. While this might sound awkward, we’re quickly drawn in and it becomes part of the joy, watching and experiencing each other’s interaction with the show (many of us are given cue cards at the beginning to read out when asked), and instead of being awkward, it simply adds to the magic.

While in no way downplaying depression or other mental illnesses, Every Brilliant Thing is a heart-warming reminder that there are many tiny, incidental and beautiful moments that make life worth living. I challenge anyone to leave the theatre not inspired to seek them out.  

Touching, hilarious and honest, Every Brilliant Thing is a salve to this year and the times we are living in.

*[If this raises any concerns for you, Lifeline Aotearoa offers a 24/7 helpline and textline counselling service and can be reached at 0800 543 354 or text HELP (4357) for free, 24/7, confidential support. Additional information can be found on their website www.lifeline.org.nz. Other services which may be of assistance include mental health advocacy organisation, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (www.mentalhealth.org.nz), and youth mental health organisation, Youthline (www.youthline.co.nz, 0800 376 633). You may also consider speaking to a trusted source or engaging your local GP.]

**[See a review of Anapela in the role here.]


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Laughter, grooving and pathos

Review by Beatrice Papazoglou 11th Oct 2020

“As you set out for Ithaka
 hope your road is a long one,
 full of adventure, full of discovery.”  C.P. Cavafy

Entering the space, we are given a number. Mine? #654 MARLON BRANDO. 

The woman handing out the numbers is Anapela Polata’ivao – one of Aotearoa’s leading Pasifika creative practitioners, and the solo performer of Every Brilliant Thing for the Te Tairawhiti Festival 2020. Her warm and welcoming interaction with so many of the audience in this manner makes us feel like we are a part of something mysterious, unknown, thoughtful and potentially joyful. 

And it is. Throughout the show, the unnamed central character as played by Polata’ivao will seemingly randomly call out numbers. If you have that number in your hand, you respond aloud with whatever is on your card. #654 MARLON BRANDO.

The numbers are part of a list wonderful, visceral, sparkling and specific reasons to live – and live with joy – compiled over a lifetime. The list is begun when our narrator is seven and her mother attempts suicide for the first time. It is meant to be one thousand items long, but eventually reaches a million. We don’t get to know all of them, but the whole audience laughs along and agrees with each of the ones we hear. This unity also allows us to tautoko and celebrate the various audience members called upon to embody a number of characters – which they do with a range of reactions from shy softness to gusto. 

Our hostess navigates the waters of the work with grace, charm and absolute relatability. She pilots us through the laughter, grooving and pathos with no apparent effort, and almost convinces this reviewer that there are sections that are improvised, so good is Polata’ivao’s seeming on the spot thought-processing and recall of stories. Of course, it is so fresh and raw-seeming because we are in the presence of a maestra. She has been skilfully directed by two of our other leading lights in the performing arts, Danielle Cormack and Jason Te Kare (the latter of whom was so excellent performing in Cellfish at last year’s Festival).

This show is an aural feast, as well… Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and a host of other Jazz, Swing and Soul greats join the party. At points I am glad that we are not invited to dance – we never would have sat down again. There is no set, costume or props to speak of; incredibly subtle lighting means the in-the-round audience can always see each other, there are no sound effects but that divine music … This feels like one of the richest offerings we could experience on a chilly Saturday night. 

Written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, the story is specific, yet universal – reminding us that every person’s life is a journey, like Odysseus setting out for his home of Ithaka. He discovered many brilliant things about himself on his travels, as do we all, as does the central character in this piece of must-see theatre. 


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