This is a play loved enough to be on a third restaging since its Australian premiere in 2016. Naturally I had high expectations. Characteristic of Frantic Assembly, the audience is engaged from the moment the auditorium lights fall. The music bursts open like a garden in spring, but the tense atmosphere is wintery. Something has happened, but we do not yet know what. Things I Know to be True is a powerful piece of theatre. It is heavy-hitting, yet lifts the spirit with apposite lines of comedy. Staging a play about something as universal as human love is a brave endeavour, yet it is beautifully and sensitively executed, becoming a piece of art worthy of its acclaim.
It is heavy-hitting, yet lifts the spirit with apposite lines of comedy.
The play was written by award-winning playwright Andrew Bovell, in co-operation with one of the world’s leading physical theatre companies, Frantic Assembly, and critically acclaimed State Theatre Company South Australia. It follows the lives of the Price family, to whom we come at a time of distance. The four children have grown up and Bob (John McArdle) and Fran (Cate Hamer) remain in Adelaide, questioning their parenthood and their marriage. The set, designed by Geoff Cobham, is constructed solely within the garden of the Price house. Whilst tables, chairs, characters and seasons rush in and out of the spotlight, it is the stars and earth that remain.
There is a tension between mutability and sustainability throughout the play; a deciphering of the truth that is transient and that which is infallible. Despite the physical distance of the family, there is still a sense of closeness between them: “But I know that at 25 Windaire Avenue, Hallett Cove, things are the same as when I left and they always will be. And I know that I have to go home,” speaks youngest child, Rosie (Kirsty Oswald). The characters experience a continual magnetism towards home and we, the audience, are spectators to the heart-breaking conflict, the aching, agonizing love that spills out across the stage.
Whilst comic relief is helpful in alleviating some of the heaviness, the constant volatility of the narrative conveys a violence that seems to be missing a gentler counterpart.
Despite the visceral effectiveness of family conflict in the play, there is a marked absence of positive moments of love. Whilst comic relief is helpful in alleviating some of the heaviness, the constant volatility of the narrative conveys a violence that seems to be missing a gentler counterpart. The play lacks the energetic physicality that Frantic Assembly is known for, however, this does not mean that movement is excluded from the play. In an earlier interview, co-Director of Things I Know to be True, Scott Graham, remarks that “there is no superfluous movement. Stillness and the space between you is absolutely crucial.” Whilst the movement is not high-energy, it is of equal importance to the narrative as the dialogue and is powerfully considered, albeit subtle.
Things I Know to be True remains at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 4th November. This beautifully moving play about the vicissitudes of human intimacy is an experience truly worth making time for. It is a story that does not simply end at the curtain call, but stays with us, bringing into mind those we love and gripping us with a desire to never let them go.
More information about Frantic Assembly can be found at https://www.franticassembly.co.uk/