Multi-tasking at work in one-man show

Andrew Marko (centre) roping in members of the audience to act, dance or offer him props.
Andrew Marko (centre) roping in members of the audience to act, dance or offer him props. PHOTO: RUTH SMALLEY

REVIEW / THEATRE

EVERY BRILLIANT THING

Bhumi Collective

Black Box, Centre 42

Wednesday

A shining moment in Every Brilliant Thing is when actor Andrew Marko plays and sings Bohemian Rhapsody on a keyboard solemnly rotated by two members of the audience.

Marko keeps perfect time on the keys and in his circular shuffle as the instrument moves.

Similar multi-tasking is required throughout the one-man show written by Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe and presented here under the direction of Bhumi Collective's co-founder Mohamad Shaifulbahri.

Every Brilliant Thing was presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 and last year. It presents the memories of a man whose mother tries several times to kill herself. At age seven, he decides to help his mother remember what is worth living for by making a list of all that is brilliant about the world.

At age seven, the list includes ice cream and staying up past your bedtime to watch TV. In later years, this expands to planning a declaration of love and the way a new vinyl record sounds when it is placed on a turntable for the first time.

The script calls for members of the audience to be involved in the performance. Some of them are given phrases to read. Others are asked for props such as books or scarves. Still others play bit parts under Marko's direction.

  • BOOK IT / EVERY BRILLIANT THING 

    WHERE: Black Box, Centre 42, 42 Waterloo Street 

    WHEN: Today and tomorrow, 3 and 8pm 

    ADMISSION: $35 

    INFO: E-mail hello@bhumicollective.com for tickets

This kind of script is both an asset and liability. Marko has an ad-hoc ensemble cast and a treasure trove of props to use. However, some members of the audience may be inaudible, as they were on Wednesday, taking away from the momentum of the play.

Others may be deliberately difficult. One refused to play the role of school counsellor as he was told. The actor had to work hard in order to take back control of the narrative.

Given a one-man script, some actors might overwhelm the room with charisma. Marko did that in another similar play last October.

In Playground Entertainment's fourplay showcase State Of Mind, he had most of the lines and time in Dora Tan's Sadness Is The New Normal. Then, he played a young man whose forced joviality hides his depression.

In Every Brilliant Thing, he is affable, down to earth and the audience is drawn in quietly but directly. There is no fourth wall, so watching the play is like making a new friend and learning this new friend's secrets.

Two tweaks would have made the play even more watchable.

Sound by Mark Benedict Cheong often overwhelmed Marko's lines as well as the quieter speech from the seats. Second, rather than having Marko perform in a circle of seats, a semi-circle or U-shaped arrangement of chairs would have let viewers see Marko's face more often.

Still, this is a heart-warming, promising debut for the Bhumi Collective in Singapore. The company plans to bring even more new theatre here from Britain and vice versa, which sounds like a brilliant thing to do.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Multi-tasking at work in one-man show'. Print Edition | Subscribe