If I were to start a list of all the brilliant things in life, theatre that makes us feel like this would be right at the top.
It’s a solo show but he is not alone. Members of the audience participate, reading items off the list. Others are cast as key characters in the story: his father, a veterinarian, a beloved school teacher.
Donahoe’s rapport with the audience is excellent, done with gentle touch and a firm surety, while the contribution made by audience participants is extraordinary. We are all prepared to go along with this and there’s no sense of self-consciousness.
The woman in the audience cast as his school teacher (because of her kindly face) obediently removes her shoe and sock, makes a sock puppet dog - which she names - and has a delightful conversation with Donahoe, so perfect it could have been scripted, but perfect because it wasn’t scripted.
Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, censored for apparently condoning suicide, lent a name to what is known as the Werther effect - when suicide rates increase following the suicide of a well-known figure, fictional or otherwise. This is one of the reasons the Samaritans has a set of guidelines about the reporting and depiction of suicide. The difficult territory to tread is how we talk about a problem we cannot ignore.
Until you’ve seen it, you may find it difficult to understand how a play about depression and suicide can be incredibly funny and heart-warming. Macmillian’s script is extraordinary, as is Donohoe’s performance, and the intimate surroundings of the Paines Plough Roundabout is the perfect setting. It’s a genuinely moving show, and you’ll find yourself laughing, smiling, and wet about the eyes when you walk outside, still tingling from the wonder of it all. If I were to start a list of all the brilliant things in life, theatre that makes us feel like this would be right at the top.