Review By Lauren Donikian
Written by Andrew Bovell, Things I Know To Be True is a play about an Australian working-class family, the Prices. They welcome us into their home where we are given an insight into their lives over the course of a year. The dynamic between the siblings, the challenges the family face and the unconditional love they have for each other, even at the times when it seems impossible take center stage in this heartfelt play.
As you enter the theatre, the stage is set in blue lighting, with a warm yellow light shining in from the right side to represent the sun. It is hitting the fence that runs along the back of the stage in an L shape and has a doorway in the middle. A single rose bush in on full display under the spotlight. We are in a backyard, and this is where most of the stories take place. The set is simple but is used very cleverly throughout the show, at one point water springs from a tap while thunder cracks over the speakers to resemble a storm. Whether this is an indication of stormy weather ahead or being cleansed of feelings of guilt and grief is up to the audience to decide. The cast tight- knit, just like the family itself enter and take their place on the stage. The audience falls silent, and the actors are comfortable standing in the stillness and calm. The siblings always remain on stage, moving together in unison, playing roles unspoken and sitting on the stage watching the story unfold. It is almost as if they are seeing it for the first time. This feels intentional, like the director Hailey McQueen always wanted them to feel connected, regardless of the distance between them. That the familial bond cannot be broken.
The story is raw and honest and none of these actors held back their emotions, the commitment to their roles is evident and the bond that they have formed is clearly visible. James Bean plays a true-blue Aussie father, who provides the lighter moments in the play, and you find yourself laughing through the tears. There are moments of recall, when a joke comes back which as an audience member is so fun to watch. There are some things said, or events that have happened that are a shared experience for this family and in jokes make it seem even more relatable. The passing of time is shown through the phases of the rose bush, which the actors remove branches from and then build them back up again, so they are in full bloom. Each season allows a new character to take their place in the spotlight to share their story. Through monologue we learn more about these characters and the impact that their choices have made on their life. These characters are each strong and flawed and grow so much within the course of the year.
This play is incredibly moving, and on reflection makes me long for a big family where their truths are shared, and the love is unconditional. When distance, time and disagreements can pull families apart there is always something that brings them back together. As Pip, the younger sister says “People aren’t perfect. Even the people you love. Especially the people you love.” A friendly reminder to be gentle to yourself and others, because you never know what they are going through.
Image Credit: Bob Sealy