Simon Green, with the help of Alexandra Martynuk

It’s rather rare for me to give up my Saturday afternoon in pursuit of artistic entertainment, and even rarer still to actually go to a live theatrical performance. However, Alexandra Martynuk, who recently attended a lecture of mine about Oxford English, coerced me into going to The Moscow English Theatre to see: ‘Every Brilliant Thing.’ I have to confess I entered this natchy little Mayakovsky theatre in the centre with a certain amount of trepidation as the topic we were being treated to was depression and suicide. This is a subject I’ve been exposed to at close quarters as my best friend some 30 years ago in the UK committed suicide whilst talking me through it at Christmas, a notoriously difficult time for some people, as well as being the seasonal zenith for taking one’s own life. My co-conspirator with this piece is the aforementioned Alexandra, who was kind enough to donate a ticket to me, so with that, I crossed the threshold and climbed up three levels to be assigned front row seats and waited with bated breath for what was about to unfold.

‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is introduced by the star of the show, Jonathan Bex, who navigates us through the why’s and wherefores of why people contemplate this dreadful final act, in a situational funny/sad comedy drama revolving around himself, who starts as a 7-year-old boy. His mother and father who are played respectively by Kirill Byrkin, the staunch and stubborn father, and Tatiana Kargaeva, the pulchritudinous yet forlorn, unloved and unloving mother. Both supporting actors, co-pilots if I may, are played with aplomb and dexterity behind the pilot that is the charismatic, engaging and flamboyant Jonathan.

We were fortunate enough to get seats right at the front where we could literally touch the furniture, and Jonathan began by explaining this was also an audience participation play. To that end, yellow cards were distributed among several members of the audience, with various ‘brilliant’ notions on them to enhance one’s life. I was the recipient of: ‘Staying up past your bedtime to watch TV’ and Alexandra had: ‘Being cooked for’ on hers. Jonathan was the absolute doyen of improvisation, and his choice of members of the audience to participate could easily have been mistaken for ‘plants,’ but one could tell by their reaction that they most certainly were not. He brilliantly inveigled audience members to become a vet, a psychologist (superbly played by Alexandra), a teacher and his ‘wife’ who all became unwitting agents into his game plan. The poor wife, a svelte and somewhat coy lady that I imagine he had targeted from the offset, was greeted with the words that after the interval, she would be the recipient of their first romantic kiss! I imagine her 15-minute interval break was rather less enjoyable than your scribe, who, having been accosted by a couple of friends and clients in the audience, headed to the bar for a surreptitious Rioja! During half time we were invited to put our own ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ on to a yellow post it card, and I wrote: ‘A fine bottle of wine with quality cheese.’ To my delight, he selected it at random from the board, and gave a nod and grunt of tacit approval- great minds think alike it seems!The final Act revealed the mother had committed suicide in the same way that my friend had 30 years before; by exhaust pipe into the car, which was especially poignant for me. Then in the final scene there was a wonderful moment when she walked through the stage, shrouded in dark, but yet still possessing a haunting and ethereal beauty, combined with a mournfulness that had me wanting to hug her. The audience were rapturous in their applause; this demanded an encore which was duly given. I felt strangely cathartic upon leaving this theatre where Jonathan was able to engage us in an up-close and personal way, and I couldn’t recommend seeing this enough. Apparently, there’s to be a January performance, but tickets sell like hot cakes, so make sure you’re first in the queue and try and grab yourselves front row seats, so you too can be involved in this exhilarating, not-to-be-missed play.