Gautam Goenka
Gautam Goenka in 'Every Brilliant Thing'. The production is a deep dive into how mental health issues affect not only the person afflicted but also the person’s nears and dears. Image Credit: Supplied

There is magic in the written word. Oh, it’s not like an abracadabra thing – no big pop-outs or hidings – but an enchantment nonetheless. It’s the ability to generate warmth, to mould thoughts and to influence behaviours. Perhaps that’s why gratitude lists are so encouraged; if you are feeling low or sad or upset, writing down the things you that you are thankful about can be uplifting.

In ‘Every Brilliant Thing’, which was written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and is getting a retelling by The Junction’s founder Gautam Goenka, a child stumbles upon an idea to help his chronically depressed mum feel better. It is to write down all the brilliant things in life, things that make life living for.

The play follows the little narrator as he adds to this line-up as he grows up. Goenka, who is also the Artistic Director of The Junction and Founder of H72 Productions, will be the only actor on stage in this production, which has an unusual roll out. A recent recipient of the Golden Cultural Visa by the UAE government, Goenka says, “There are two reasons why I took up this play, a) a one-man show as a character which is unlike any I have played before, was a challenge I wanted to take up, b) I fell in love with the message of the play which is universal and something everyone will identify with. I hope through the play we can impress upon the audience that everyone struggles at some point in their lives, and it's ok to feel stuck, but more importantly there are several reasons to go on!”

Impact on everyone

The production is a deep dive into how mental health issues affect not only the person afflicted but also the person’s nears and dears. In the era of COVID-19, where everyone is dealing with an upended version of the world they once know, the message becomes more relevant. “’Every Brilliant Thing’ deals with mental health and wellbeing. Both topics of prime interest currently to people around the world. It talks about how people use coping mechanisms to get through tough situations. It touches on suicides and how they affect the people closest to the victims. Most importantly it does all this in a light and humorous manner. While dealing with sensitive topics, the play ensures it maintains a fine balance between humor and getting some serious points across,” says Goenka.

The way the play is structured, it doesn’t excuse audience members or limit them to observers. It pulls them into the narrative, shifting the telling with each performance. Goenka explains: “The audience is the other character in ‘Every Brilliant Thing’. In fact, the viewer isn't even in the dark. The lights stay up on them throughout the play. Without giving too much away, the audience members are given tasks and are expected to be a part of the show.”

The UAE theatre veteran admits that this structure, this production throws up an interesting challenge. “This is the first time I am directing and acting in a full length one-man show. There were natural challenges of learning lines, motivating myself to rehearse and just checking if it all pieces together well from an audience viewpoint,” he explains.

Life-affirming, tear-inducing, tinged with sadness, sparkling with happiness – there are many words that will describe this production. Watch out for the magic.

Don't miss it!

Tickets to see 'Every Brilliant Thing', which runs from September 2-4 at The Junction, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai at 7.30pm, are Dh100.