One of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression
For one night only Dragonfly Theatre will be performing Every Brilliant Thing, written by Duncan MacMillan with Jonny Donahue, at The Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool and an early morning video call to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was my opportunity to catch up with performer Leon Bown.
Every Brilliant Thing is a wise and witty one-man play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love. Bown saw the play performed at a local school in Vietnam and was blown away by the script of what is considered one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression, and with Dragonfly went on to perform it to sell out audiences in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bown hails from Childwall so I was curious to understand how he ended up in Vietnam. He explains that his wife had applied and secured a job in the Cayman Islands about ten years ago, following the birth of their daughter. Two years later they relocated to Madrid where Bown was a TEFL teacher. Two years on again came the opportunity in Vietnam and they have never looked back. The lower cost of living affords them a comfortable lifestyle and the chance to get involved with developing a theatre company in a country that is lagging in the arts.
Returning to the play, Bown notes that In Vietnam, the culture surrounding mental health is behind with individuals displaying signs of mental distress being tied to their beds or thrown into institutions where they are forgotten by their families. Whilst the environment in the UK is less draconian, the stigma surrounding mental health remains. Bown has had personal experience of the trauma that follows suicide and the play represented the perfect opportunity to make a difference and do something about it and, with the permission of their families, celebrate those friends he had lost.
Bown was returning to Liverpool for the summer so got in touch with his friend Iain Christie at Liverpool’s Royal Court to see if he could perform it there. Christie was honest in his view that the space wouldn’t be right for this play and wisely suggested The Hope Street Theatre, established by another friend of Bown’s, Sam Donovan, would be better. Given the distance involved, Bown has relied heavily on the support of both Christie and Donovan to bring the play to fruition and allow him the opportunity to give something back: proceeds from the play will be going to James’ Place in Liverpool.
There was one final hurdle to overcome though: Bown discovered the play was scheduled for a UK national tour and the licence to perform was unavailable. He contacted the play’s writer directly and explained the circumstances of what he was trying to do. Writer MacMillan gave his blessing and Bown can perform in his home city for one night. I for one am really looking forward to it.
Formed in 2011, Dragonfly are passionate about the need for Saigon to have professional quality, English language theatre not only for the expatriate community but also for English speaking Vietnamese. Further details https://www.dragonfly-theatre-vn.com/
The Hope Street Theatre is an interchangeable fringe venue in the heart of Liverpool’s culture district that encourages and drives new work. Further details available at http://hopestreettheatre.com/
James’ Place was opened in June 2018 as a non-clinical centre for men experiencing suicidal crisis in Liverpool. It is the first of its kind in the UK. Further details https://www.jamesplace.org.uk/
Every Brilliant Thing will be performed at The Hope Street Theatre in Liverpool on 1st August at 7.30pm. Tickets are £16 and available via http://tiny.cc/kmni9y