Monday, December 4

Every Brilliant Thing – Theatre by the Lake

Ours is an open society, where we can talk about everything – well almost everything. The final taboos are around death, dying and suicide writes Karen Morley-Chesworth. However, Theatre by the Lake’s current production Every Brilliant Thing shines a light brightly on these topics in a way that feels safe, welcoming and supported.

From the moment you approach the theatre, things look different – with each brilliant thing people have been invited to share emblazoned across walls, pillars, windows… each with its own unique number. 

There are warm orange and white fairy lights, a welcome mat and plenty of additional information around the bars and entrance about mental health support and suicide prevention.

This one-act one-man play tells the story from a son’s perspective of growing up in a family. A son, a dad and a mum who doesn’t see any reason to keep living. However, this is not a depressing play, this is a play filled with the joy and laughter of life.

Andrew Turner takes you from his primary school self through to university, marriage and divorce. An everyday tale of everyday life – yet he starts collecting and making a list of every brilliant thing there is to live for in life. 

From his naive approach to ‘helping’ his mum to a means of refocusing his own life and mental health, the Every Brilliant Thing list continues to grow. The list provides the backbone from which playwright Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe gently takes us by the hand and walks the audience through the difficult conversations, the necessary conversations, and the potential life-saving conversations we need to have.

Turner’s interaction with the audience brings everyone together on this journey. There is an atmosphere in the Main House I’ve never felt before. Like life, there are ups and downs, laughter and tears. And you can give yourself permission to enjoy this play and Donahoe’s entertaining and magical performance.

After each performance Theatre by the Lake is working with support groups and charities to add an additional element to the evening – EBT+ PLUS. We were fortunate enough to have one of the now world-famous ‘3 Dad’s Walking’ team, local lad Andy Airey who talked about his daughter Sophie and his work with PAPYRUS. 

The EBT+ is different for each performer, so check out the different speakers and events on the theatre website. And please, go to the EBT+ session – it could help you save a life.

The warm orange colour of the set and decorations around the theatre provides a cocoon feeling – a safe space. And you can interact with the work by adding your ‘brilliant thing’ to the wall art on the second floor, which is part of a wider exhibition.

Turner gives such a special performance, making the unbearable a positive, memorable visit to the theatre – and I would love to go back to see this performance again, for each will be as different as the audience members attending.

Don’t let a taboo put you off going to see this production – it really is a brilliant thing to be part of.

Following the run at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Every Brilliant Thing will tour to venues across Cumbria:

  • Friday 29th September, 7.30 pm The Beggar’s Theatre, Millom 
  • Saturday 30th September, 7 pm The Centre, Ewanrigg
  • Thursday 5th October, 7.30 pm Kirkby Stephen Sports & Social Club
  • Saturday 7th October, 7.30 pm Grasmere Village Hall
  • Sunday 8th October, 7.30 pm Arnside Educational Institute

And Theatre by the Lake say further venues are to be announced shortly.

For more information and to book tickets visit

Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth

Reviewed: 12th September 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.