Things I Know To Be True

‘Things I Know To Be True’ // Brisbane Arts Theatre

‘Things I Know To Be True’ was prickly.

The latest work staged with the iconic Brisbane Arts Theatre, ‘Things I Know to Be True’,  is an intimate deconstruction of the dynamics of a modern Australian family. It aims to make you laugh, cry, smile and boldly ask yourself “What is
unconditional love?”

Premiering in 2016 as a part of The State Theatre Company South Australia, Andrew Bovell’s naturalistic text follows a year in the lives of the Price family. Parents Bob (Alex Lanham) and Fran (Cathy Stanley), and each of their four offspring in their attempts to further develop their adult lives. However, the passage of time shatters any idyllic images of each other, revealing certain truths and acts challenging the love this family holds.

The production immediately grabbed interest with the family spread out, directly addressing the audience with a spotlight before redirecting into a monologue by youngest sibling Rosie (Eleni Koutsoukis) experiencing heartbreak in Europe. From there, the production follows the framework of utilising soliloquies to introduce each character’s troubles and subsequently interact with the family unit. This provided a sound base to mine the dramatic tension of the show.

The set design was simplistic and grounded. It featured a clear divide between a glass table and four chairs on stage left, symbolising interior scenes against a log, outside bench and Rose Garden on stage right. This created the impact of Bob and Fran’s rose-tinted ideas of their children clashing with the reality happening before their eyes. This was further continued by costuming, which subtly illustrated each character’s emotional state regarding their insecurities and external lives.

The direction by John Boyce was straightforward. Naturalistic blocking within the stage allowed for moments of stillness and brevity in each gesture, beat and movement, with the occasional break into symbolic gesture to represent grief or heartbreak. This allowed the dramatic weight of Bovell’s text to be felt, particularly as the production ramped up in the
Second Act. However, I personally would have preferred to see more energy and a quicker pace. At times the stillness at certain points came across as jagged, diluting the meat of the First Act’s dramatic potential.

The lighting design by Taylah Karpowicz was effective in setting the tone of each change in the scene. Utilizing coloured backdrops and washes to illustrate shifts in nostalgia and reality, it symbolically represented the change in seasons and the heartbreaking circumstances the Price family found themselves in.

The ensemble cast was uniformly effective in showcasing the complexities and nuances of Bovell’s text. Standouts are the fragility that Luke Friedman brought to the character of Mark, with the physicality of a child trapped inside themselves through slumped shoulders and nuance, and Lanham’s Bob spinning a dry observation one minute, being the emotional
bedrock of the production the next. I was also struck with the vulnerability displayed by Koutsoukis’ Rosie, often acting as a silent observer and empathetic shoulder for others in the family. Each other member of the cast remained to be sound in communicating their given circumstances, accurately listening and responding. Despite the odd line hiccup and artifice in certain moments, each performance was enjoyable in its own respective right.

Overall, ‘Things I Know to Be Tru’” managed to provide an honest and turbulent perspective on the modern Australian family, leaving you with the want to hug your family tenderly. Like a rose, at times it can make you bleed with a prick of the finger, and at others, it can motivate you to act in the name of love for those you care about.

‘Things I Know to Be True’ performs until Saturday, 4 March 2023 at Brisbane Arts Theatre. For more information visit their website.

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