Q&A with Paines Plough

| by Eleanor Turney

James Grieve and George Perrin talk to Eleanor Turney about EVERY BRILLIANT THING - a funny and heart-warming one-man show, based on true and untrue stories.


Tell us about your show.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is a very funny, beautiful, life-affirming play by one of the UK’s most acclaimed playwrights, Duncan Macmillan, with comedian Jonny Donahoe. It tells the story of a seven-year-old boy who starts a list of everything that is brilliant in the world as a gift for his Mum, who suffers from depression. The list starts 1. Ice cream; 2. Water fights; 3. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV. As the boy grows older, the list grows longer, and takes on a life of its own.

What can audiences expect from your show?

Lots of laughter and maybe a few tears. The Guardian said it was “one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression – and possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.” It is staged completely in the round in Paines Plough’s award-winning pop-up Roundabout auditorium with the house lights up, so it’s an experience you share with the whole audience. Some audience members will take part by reading out bits of the list or playing characters in the story, so every show is unique, and you might end up in a starring role.

What do you think will work well in other countries?

The search for beauty and joy and hope in times of sadness is universal – the themes of the show transcend cultural or language barriers.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded to look at the world through the uncomplicated eyes of a child. No matter where you are, or what your life throws at you, you are surrounded by brilliant things if only you know how to look for them. The show played for 16 weeks Off-Broadway in New York and – aside from a few very specific cultural references – was adopted wholeheartedly by its audiences. 

What does being part of the Showcase mean to you, and why is it important?

It’s a huge honour. We’re very proud to be part of a thriving UK theatre industry that produces so much great work, and to sit alongside innovative artists and companies in the Showcase line-up. We think British playwrights are the best in the world, so as a new writing company we are particularly proud to champion Duncan Macmillan and this wonderful play. We are excited to have the chance to introduce people from around the world to the world-class playwrights we have the privilege to work with.

Edinburgh can be a whirl – any advice/tips for delegates and other companies?

When it all gets too much, pack a little picnic hamper and hike up Arthur’s Seat. Sit at the top with a glass of fizz and some nibbles, and survey the breathtaking scene. Edinburgh at its most regal and beautiful, with lungfuls of fresh Scottish air.


James Grieve and George Perrin are Artistic Directors of Paines Plough. Everything Brilliant Thing will be playing at Roundabout at Summerhall from 8 – 30 AUGUST (not 11, 18 and 25 August) and is part of the British Council’s Edinburgh Showcase.