Brilliantly Unconventional

Hailed by British newspaper, The Guardian, as "one of the funniest plays you'll ever see about depression", theatrethreesixty invites you to be -- literally -- a part of an interactive theatrical happening that (with your help) unfolds as both heart-wrenching and hilarious. Staged in the thrust, Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing, starring Qahar Aqilah and directed by Christopher Ling, tackles the thorny issue of depression through unconventional theatrical devices.

“The play is an interactive play, in so much that every night, because of the way he (Qahar) interacts with the different audiences the dynamics of the storyline changes. So the nature and the feel of the performances are going to be very different from night to night because you could get a ‘cast’ of people who are very cooperative or you could get a cast that is completely uncooperative and looking for trouble, which makes it an interesting challenge for Qahar but a nightmare for me,” muses Chris, who first chanced upon the play two years ago in the earlier mentioned review published in the Guardian.

The 90-minute production starts off with the introduction of a litany of brilliant things in an understandably childlike response to the “first attempt” of the narrator’s mother at suicide. Through various life stages, from school to college, marriage to mortgage, this list grows with help from the audience. Undoubtedly, it is Qahar’s prowess in improv acting that holds the show together and grants Chris some peace of mind.

“To be given the opportunity to work on a play as this with an actor of Qahar’s caliber is a rare treat. Knowing that EVERY BRILLIANT THING fits hand-in-glove with Qahar the consummate actor and Qahar the improv expert as well as slick host almost makes me feel like it was written for him to perform,” Christopher further explains.

But the real question remains, how do you rehearse a play with an unknown cast?

“The key is this, there are two elements in this play, we have (Qahar) the character in this play and Qahar the theatrical device, who is used to tell the story in a more engaging way and it is left up to us to decide or find out, when is this guy reliving a moment or retelling a moment. That has been the real eye-opener for me but I have the advantage of working with Qahar, who knows his stuff,” shared Chris. The two have worked on various productions over the span of 15 years.

In this raw and intimate piece of theatre, what starts off as an innocent way of dealing with tragedy becomes a recurring reminder that joy can be found in anything and everything from ice cream to Christopher Walken’s voice, if only you stopped to look. What can be even more endearing is the inclination of the audience to be hearteningly ready to assist the main character as he continues to compile his list of brilliant things, as one would a child reciting the alphabet or reading aloud for the first time.

This is an altogether charming piece that reminds us of the undeniable power and immersion of live performance and perhaps serves as a poignant reminder that sometimes all you need to get by, is a little help from your friends.

Every Brilliant Thing will continue its run till 20 November at theatrethreesixty’s new Black Box at Tommy Le Baker, A-1-5, Viva Residence, 3rd Mile Jalan Ipoh, 51200 Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are available online via Tixipro

This article was published on November 19, 2016 in the Malay Mail.