Review: Things I Know To Be True, York Theatre Royal

John McArdle as Bob Price in Things I Know To Be True. Credit Manuel Harlan.

Andrew Bovell’s debut play is family drama set in Adelaide. But so skillful is the writing - and the production by Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company Southern Australia - that this could be any family, anywhere.

Most will recognise the Prices in their own relations. There’s dad, Bob, who can’t work the new coffee machine and who is mildly obsessed with the best route to the airport and mum, Fran, who sees skin cancer where others see just a mole and who desperately wants to prove that she treats each of her four children the same as the rest.

The three eldest have already flown the nest, but haven’t yet severed ties to the family home. Youngest son Ben still returns each weekend to pick up his ironing, while eldest daughter Pip screams inwardly at the perceived injustice at having sacrificed her own identity to be a mum to two young children.

When Rosie, the youngest of the Price brood, returns early from what was supposed to be life changing gap year it seems, momentarily at least, that family life will return to the familiar rythms of old.

However, like the Oscar winning film American Beauty, behind these apparently ordinary lives lie a million extraordinary details. To say much else would be to unleash a thousand spoilers, but over the course of a pacey two hours, regrets are exposed, missed opportunities are longed for and small emotional cracks become chasms.

Here everyone wants something else, but they are never quite sure how to get it.

The Everyman quality of Bovell’s story is enhanced by the decision not to use Aussie accents. Instead John McArdle, still familiar to most as Brookside’s Billy Corkill, vents in a Liverpudlian brogue, while Seline Hizli’s Pip is a smart talking southerner.

Things I Know To Be True is an extraordinary piece of theatre and beautifully staged by Frantic Assembly, a company known as masters of physical theatre.

From the direction to the script and the brilliant cast, it’s a play which captures the joys and frustrations of family life. By the the end, it has run the whole gamut of emotions and much like a treasured photograph from years ago, it is a piece destined to linger long in the memory.

To Nov 4.

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