Things I know To Be true

Posted on: 23 September 2016 by 50connect editorial

Laurence Green reviews the rich and complex play by Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham, Things I know To Be True, that raises questions about family relationships.

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It is a pleasure to welcome a new play that manages to be funny, sad, poignant and above all, truthful and brutally Frank about family relationships, namely Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True (Lyric Hammersmith), which marks the first-time collaboration between the state theatre company of South Australia and the UK’s Frantic Assembly, under the direction of Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham.

After an obligatory gap-year trip around Europe, 19-year-old Rosie returns to her suburban Adelaide home and her much missed family: mum Fran, dad Bob, sister Pip, and brothers Ben and Mark. They all gather to greet her, but it’s not long before Pip and Fran are arguing: Pip is restless and wants to leave her husband after many years of marriage, much to the shock and anger of her mother Fran. This however, is the first of many dramas that prove that the family Rosie thought she could rely on, is in fact in turmoil, like most families.

As various emotional crises drive the family members physically and mentally apart, Fran, at the eye of the storm, struggles to pull them back together. It is no mean task and it takes its toll, culminating in a tragedy that no one saw coming.

Despite some reservations – I felt that the issues of gender confusion, sexual inequality, redundancy and embezzlement were top heavy and threatened to overload the drama, but everything comes seamlessly together in a superb, gut-wrenching second half. Characters and situations fleshed out via monologues, delicately guiding us through the family drama, and as we watch people hurt each other, we feel this hurt, and yet tenderness remains always. There are some beautiful moments where physical movement and textual delivery become intimate and intuitive dance partners – Frantic Assembly is a company renowned for its vibrant physical interpretations of texts.

Geoff Cobham’s evocative set brings vividly to life the garden that is the symbolic setting for much of the play.

The cast operate as an affecting and strong ensemble unit. But it is Rosie who is the play’s lynchpin. The child who was unplanned, the not-quite an adult, the observer of the splintering family unit: much rests on actress Kirsty Oswald’s silence on the vast stage. She, like us, is the outsider in the family of grown-ups, and her performance is both fragile and stoic. Fine support comes from Imogen Stubbs as the much put-upon mother Fran, who works as a senior nurse, Ewan Stewart as the 63-year-old patriarch Bob, who was made redundant from the carmakers where he worked for thirty years, and Natalie Casey, Matthew Barker and Richard Mylan as their offspring, Pip, Mark and Ben Price, respectively.

This, in short, is a rich and complex play with a universal resonance, which is epic in scope, while deeply human in focus. It will tug at your heart, while asking the big questions about what it is that keeps us going.

Things I know To Be true

Playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 1 October 2016

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