It starts off with a man, clad in only his pyjamas surrounded in darkness, and he gets a phone call. This short opening scene sets Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True off on an intense, emotional rollercoaster following a family through various trials and tribulations. It is honestly shocking how relatable this show is: I went with a friend and both of us found multiple scenes that hit too close to home for comfort – but kept us captivated to the very last scene.
The show comprises a cast of only six playing the Price Family: Mark (Matthew Barker), Fran (Cate Hamer), Pip (Seline Hizli), Bob (played by director Scott Graham), Rosie (Kirsty Oswald), and Ben (Arthur Wilson). Like any typical family, there are good times and bad times, and we see them all, uncomfortably so.
The directors, Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham, write in their note about the production that “Andrew’s writing is always, in one way or another, about our struggle to love and how we can hurt those close to us”, and that’s what makes this play so hard to watch. Fran Price, for example, is the matriarch of the family and could be argued to be the most complex character. She is kind but angry, passionate and sad, and so frustrating. She made me want to slap her across the face in one moment, then hold her the next. The daughters, Pip and Rosie, are polar opposites – Pip is the resented daughter with kids and a husband of her own, looking for something more than her mediocre life can offer her. Rosie is a young woman, just trying to grow up after travelling the world. Fran criticises Pip her whole life, and this is thrown unexpectedly back in her face while her two sons, Mark and Ben, are both keeping secrets that could destroy the family. The actor who normally plays Bob Price, was sick for the particular performance I saw, so instead we saw Scott Graham who even with the script in hand was outstanding. He felt like my dad, my friends’ dad and everyone’s father. He was so entirely convincing that I stopped noticing when he needed to read his lines at points in the show.
While the play has both tragic and depressing moments, there is also a great comedic side as well. The quick-fire banter had the audience laughing within minutes of it starting and rears its head throughout the entire show although less and less as it progresses. The overwhelming issues take precedence but, despite this, I still came out of the show loving it. I haven’t been able to stop talking about different parts, how they made me feel and what they reminded me of in my own family. Putting on a show that nearly everyone can relate to is an overwhelming task, but Things I Know To Be True is a success. Every character struggles with real human problems, and I sympathised for every one of them.
The stage transitions are impressive, carried out by the actors themselves, such as a kitchen scene where the chairs and table are slid effortlessly across the stage just as Rosie and her parents are about to sit down. The choreography of the transitions and the timing are perfect and seamless – it really depicts the constant, non-stop flow of everyday life. The family are also constantly moving, even while giving their own monologues, whether pacing across the floor or shivering in the rain – every single one of them is unceasing. It perhaps shows how life never really, truly stops. No matter the problems thrown at us during our lifetime, we keep moving on. The repetitious language brings the play full circle, starting and ending with Rosie. In her opening monologue, she says, “And to stop myself coming apart I make a list of all the things I know… I mean actually know for certain to be true and the really frightening thing is… it’s a very short list. I don’t know much at all.” Maybe that’s the point of the show: that few things in life are known to be really true.
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