Andrew Bovell’s ‘Things I Know To Be True’, co-produced by UK company Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company South Australia, reprised their play at The Lyric Hammersmith in Autumn 2017. Since its first successful UK and Australian tour, the play has been re-cast by British actors to play the Price family: a quiet, suburban Australian family who begin to face mounting dilemmas.
The play starts with the youngest daughter Rosie (Kirsty Oswald), who after a misguided romantic experience in Europe, decides to return to Hallet Cove, Australia for familial support. However, when she arrives she is witness to a familial unraveling she didn’t expect. Ewan Stuart and Cate Hamer effectively capture the plight of working class Price parents witnessing their children make decisions they do not understand. Some moments between these parents and their children are incredibly moving, such as the argument between mother and eldest daughter Pip (Seline Hizli) who is about to leave her husband and children to move to Canada. One fraught conversation between the parents and their eldest Mark (Matthew Barker) is rather heartbreaking as they feel they wont see their son again after she becomes a woman. If anything it is the generational differences that are heartbreaking in the play, but annoyingly it is the mother and not the father who get cursed for her short sightedness.
Although Bovell does write some beautiful moments, some just do not ring true. As each child of the Price parents take it in turns to face the motherly scorn (the daughter wanting a divorce, the son needing to transition to a woman, and the youngest a thief), it was hard to really invest in every story. As Rosie watches from the sidelines, I felt her presence often wasted and even irritating as she always defended her parents. Did all that freedom abroad teach her nothing?
The choreography from Frantic was, as usual, beautiful, and stunningly made the connections and miscommunications between family members visual. A connection of a fighting family holding hands, leaning in separate directions, especially had an emotional impact. Bovell himself expressed cynicism at his play being produced by such a physical company, but the physicality in fact holds up what would just be a middle-of-the-road family drama.
The scenography designed by Geoff Cobham reflects at once the beauty but aching existence of the suburbs this family inhabits. The variety of english accents, although emitting some great performances, often felt so far removed from the quiet Australian suburb that I felt lost. In a Hammersmith theatre, Rosie’s journey to and from Europe would have felt more like the epic journey she describes it to be if it really felt like Australia was on stage.
Things I Know to Be True is now available on Digital Theatre+
Words, Holly Bond, @bondhollybond
Top image,, Manuel Harlan
Image, Tristram Kenton