Things I Know To Be True. By Andrew Bovell. Directed by Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham. State Theatre Company of South Australia and Frantic Assembly. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. Until June 11. canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.
In his keynote address at the 2014 National Play Festival, playwright Andrew Bovell stated: "The playwright's job is to tell the truth" His latest play, Things I Know To Be True, shines a probing light on the Price family, a working-class family from Adelaide's southern coastal suburb of Hallett's Cove. Bob, the father, (Paul Blackwell) has been made redundant from his car assembly plant. Fran, his wife (Eugenia Fragos) continues to work as a nurse. Their children, Mark, the eldest (Tim Walter), Ben (Nathan O'Keefe), the married sister Pip (Georgia Adamson) and the youngest, Rosie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) struggle to assert their independence within a family fraught with the burden of undisclosed truths. But truth will out, erupting with forceful honesty, exploding with tension, shocking in its revelations, fragmenting in its effect, painfully tearing at the heart and shaking the foundation of family love and expectation.
Things I Know To Be True is unsettling, even disturbing. It is, in fact, a contemporary tragedy in which the family is the noble hero, brought down by the fatal flaw of self-prevarication. Each character is compelled to confront the fearful consequences of their concealment. The early image of the loving, unified family is gradually dispelled as Pip reveals her true feelings. Mark struggles with his sexuality, and Ben succumbs to false ambition. Even Rosie must accept the inevitability of change and learn the things that she knows to be true. Fran, the dominant matriarchal figure, must also confront the consequences of her actions. Bob's world crumbles about him, an honest, faithful and good man, devotedly tending to his garden, and unaware of the changes occurring about him.
An outstanding cast, performing as a tightly woven ensemble, imbue every moment of this gripping drama with conviction. State Theatre Company of South Australia's artistic director Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham of Britain's Frantic Assembly Physical Theatre combine realism with the metaphorical physicality of gesture in which actors are lifted above the ground, gently handled or used to change set and costume with fluid grace and timing. The Price family's journey assumes allegorical significance, transforming dysfunction into the parable of elusive truth. For those who may view Bovell's situations as extreme or unlikely depictions of one family's circumstances, the truth lies in the play's universality and cautionary moral. Bovell is a brilliant observer, an existential conjurer of life's great questions and a skilful, wise and compassionate storyteller to his people. Things I Know To Be True offers a thought-provoking plea for honesty and acceptance on a deeply personal level.
Brookman and Graham, together with set and lighting designer Geoff Cobham, and with evocative sound design by Andrew Howard and music by Nils Frahm, have created a seamless, flawless, beautifully crafted and acted production of a unique theatrical experience.
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