Theatre Review: Things I Know To Be True

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.31.19 pmPhoto credit: Shane Reid

Watching the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s latest production, Things I Know To Be True, was truly an emotional journey. Judging by the audience reactions of laughter and tears, everyone in the room felt the same way.

In the Price family, there is a character every audience member can connect with. Rosie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), the newly-minted adult searching for direction in Europe and at home. Pip (Georgia Adamson), the young mother bored with her job and marriage and seeking something to reignite her passion for life. Mark (Tim Walter), the eldest son who has spent three decades wearing an identity that doesn’t fit. Ben (Nathan O’Keefe), the gregarious high-flyer who might go too far to hide his insecurities. Fran (Eugenia Fragos), the smart, demanding, flawed, loving matriarch. And Bob (Paul Blackwell), the father whose sunny nature is tested by retirement, his children’s choices, and ultimately tragedy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.30.04 pmPhoto credit: Shane Reid

This Andrew Bovell play is about family, love, loss, growing up and moving on. The family relationships feel exquisitely realistic: the mother who still washes and irons her adult son’s shirts; a sister’s hurt when she realises her sibling has not shared as much with her as she has with them; the father who berates his daughter for taking a taxi from the airport rather than letting him pick her up. The story is also unapologetically Adelaide-an: family arguments about whether it’s better to take the coast road or the expressway from the airport to Hallett Cove had everyone in the audience nodding along.

Things I Know To Be True was developed in collaboration with the London-based physical theatre company Frantic Assembly. The physical theatre adds a pleasingly dynamic visual quality to the play: as one actor soliloquises, he or she is touched, lifted, tugged, rolled and held, while the other actors walk, run or leap across the stage, rearranging the set or props. The relatively minimalist set of the Prices’ garden was also visually pleasing while being reflective of the themes and storyline: bare flowerbeds turn to rosebushes which in turn are pulled out and strewn across the stage in a moment of chaos, while the luminous outline of a huge tree overlooks the Prices as they move through hardship and joy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.30.15 pm

Photo credit: Shane Reid

The performances were all extremely strong, with Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Eugenia Fragos as particular standouts. Cobham-Hervey did a wonderful job of conveying her character’s rawest emotions under pressure, making the most of the play’s most touching soliloquies. She also seemed the most comfortable of all the actors with the physical theatre component: this would not surprise those of us who saw her in circus act Gravity and Other Myths’ production of A Simple Space in the Adelaide Fringe a couple of years ago. Fragos deftly handled the many facets of Fran’s personality – nagging, comforting, loyal, knowing, defiant, fearful – and absolutely brought her character to life.

Overall, there is little to criticise in this funny, moving and artful production. One small problem was that the actors did not pause the dialogue in order to accommodate audience reactions, especially laughter, meaning that a few lines were drowned out. Some might say the plot was a little predictable in parts, and yet the script contained enough clever subtle foreshadowing and misdirection that events that may have seemed ‘obvious’ in retrospect were surprising in the moment.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.30.39 pm

Photo credit: Shane Reid

Although the Adelaide season has finished, I recommend seeing Things I Know To Be True on its national and international tours if you get the chance. Come prepared to laugh, probably cry, and be seized by a strong desire to call or even go home and hug your family afterwards!

4 out of 5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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