Theatre - Fest

Every Brilliant Thing preview : A very real conversation

With an intent to resonate with the local milieu, QTP’s Quasar Thakore Padamsee, fondly known as Q, re-wrote the famous play, Every Brilliant Thing (EBT), by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe. An uplifting play about love, life and family, the play addresses a very important subject — mental health. Speaking about it, Q highlights the importance of the audience in being “willful contributors to the narrative” and the play’s central and only performer, Vivek Madan. Excerpts from an interview:

What inspired you to adapt EBT for an Indian context?

The play must be played in its local milieu. It is such a fragile piece of storytelling, that to do justice to the writing, the text has to appear almost autobiographical for the performer.

The play has its own brand of humour...

The credit for this has to go to the playwrights. The story is human. So is the humour. It’s not a series of jokes or elaborate set-ups. It’s just a guy telling you the story of his life and a list that he started when he was seven, and how he kept at it till today. How the list brought him joy. It was hard for us to find the right balance. At some point in the rehearsal it was too ‘played’, at others too intense. But eventually we found what worked.

Every Brilliant Thing preview : A very real conversation

Can you talk to us about the dynamic between the artiste and the audience?

I would call the form participative. The audience are willful contributors to the narrative. Without them the show can’t continue. In that way, it’s a very pure form of theatre. The audience supports the performance, and spurs the actor to tell the story. When he needs help, the audience helps.

How did you handle subjects as sensitive as mental health and suicide?

A lot of our work was discovery. When we were doing readings of the text, we were surprised to find at least a quarter of these close confidants had struggled or were struggling with mental distress. It became important for us to understand and respect the uniqueness of each individual’s struggle. So rather than telling a story of a generic problem, we made the issue more specific; and in a strange way, more universal.

At the heart of the play is the idea of an abundance of unreasonable hope. How important is the performance to communicate an idea like this?

I think the play is all about Vivek Madan. Sometimes as a director you discover that your real job is just to get out of the way. And essentially, that’s what I have done on this one. I have loved watching him construct this piece. He shares a story with you. Not in abstract terms but in a very real conversation. The defining aspect of theatre is the immediacy of it. And the way he performs is the crystallisation of that concept.

What is the singular message you’d like for audiences to take home after their viewing of EBT?

Just to talk. We all struggle with issues at various times. We spend hours in the gym, but often ignore what our mind is going through. There is nothing wrong in putting your hand up and saying, “Hey! I’m struggling right now.”

Every Brilliant Thing will be staged in Alliance Francaise of Madras on September 1, 4 pm and 7.30 pm.

Tickets available on www.insider.in and The Hindu's Theatre Fest page


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