Things I Know to Be True

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Things I Know To Be True is a theatre production produced by State Theatre Company South Australia and Frantic Assembly, directed by Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham. It was written by Andrew Bovell and features the music of Nils Frahm. The play is naturalistic but features a great use of non-naturalistic physical movement to emphasise the emotional connection between the characters - following the story of the Price Family and their problems.The play is set in Adelaide, Australia, which is where the play held its World Premiere in May 2016. It subsequently toured the United Kingdom twice.[1]

Plot[edit]

The plot of Things I Know To Be True follows the story and the many struggles of the Price Family. The play begins with a monologue from Rosie Price (played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey in the Premiere season, and Kirsty Oswald in the UK) , explaining that she'd been on a European getaway during her gap-year. She reveals that she had met a man called Emanuel while she was in Berlin, but found that he'd stolen most of her valuables and run away when she woke up one night - forcing her to return to Australia.

As Rosie returns home, we see the rest of the family come to meet her. While this is all happening, it is revealed that Pip, Rosie's elder sister, has decided to leave her husband and two children behind to live in Vancouver; her mother, Fran, disapproves, especially after she found out that Pip had been cheating. Fran is particularly disappointed, as she states that she saw a lot of herself in Pip. Later in the play, Pip has moved to Vancouver and had written a letter to Fran, finally emotionally connecting with her after a rather abusive childhood. It takes hundreds of miles for the two characters to finally be together emotionally.

In another angle of the plot, the Price's second child, Mia, then presenting as a man and using the name Mark, reveals that she is a transgender woman. This comes as a shock to the rest of the family, with Fran again being particularly displeased. She reveals that she wishes to move to Sydney to begin hormonal therapy. We do not see Mia presenting as a man again, but see her presenting as woman later.

Another sub-plot is that Fran had been saving around $250,000 as a get-out fund for her relationship with Bob, stating that it is "hard to love someone for 30 years straight." She admits to Bob that she once thought of running away - like Pip had just done - but stayed together for the sake of their children. Fran then says that she now saves it for them to treat themselves. She asks Bob where he'd most like to go and he replies Kruger National Park. To his surprise, she agrees to go, yet they never do.

The final sub-plot of this play is centered around the younger son, Ben, and his father, Bob. Bob finds a European car parked outside; it turns out to be Ben's and Bob wants to know how he found the money, with Ben answering that he worked hard for it. This appears to be insignificant, until later in the play Ben returns home, sweating and speaking quickly. Rosie is the only person indoors at the time and she realizes quickly that Ben had been taking drugs. Bob and Fran then enter, now even more curious about his money situation. Bob asks Ben what drugs he'd taken, to which Ben replies, "It'd be easier to ask which ones I haven't." Bob then snaps, shouting and swearing at Ben - it is at this moment that Ben reveals that he had been skimming, and that's where he'd retrieved the money for the drugs and flashy car.

As all this is happening, however, tragedy strikes. It is revealed that Fran had been involved in a car crash and was pronounced dead on arrival. She passes away without reconciling with Mia, emotionally connecting with Pip in person, forgiving Ben and taking Bob to South Africa. The children return to Adelaide to meet Bob and Rosie for Fran's funeral.

Cast and characters[edit]

Fran Price - played by Eugenia Fragos (Aus) and Imogen Stubbs (UK) and Jordan Baker (US)[edit]

Fran Price is the mother of the Price Family. Fran is a senior nurse and is the only working grandparent in the Price Family. During the play, she reveals that she has a secret stash of cash hidden away for post-retirement, but, in a revelation, she revealed that it was originally a 'get-out clause' for her relationship with Bob. During the same speech, she admits that she loved another man, but never slept with him and stuck with Bob for the sake of her children. It is revealed that she died in an MVC in the final scene of the play.

Bob Price - played Paul Blackwell (Aus) and Ewan Stewart (UK) and Bill Geisslinger (US)[edit]

Bob Price is the father of the Price Family and is retired. He has retired earlier than anticipated, due to his taking of a redundancy package that the car company he was previously working for offered him. He is perhaps best known for his comedic interruptions in what is otherwise a more serious play, such as asking Fran if she had used his secateurs during a heated argument. Due to his unemployment, Bob has become a very keen gardener and is also a family man. His prized possessions are his children and his plants, in particular, his roses, which are a subject of a few satirical arguments between him and his wife. Bob is distraught when Fran dies and tears the plants that he has spent so long nurturing from the ground in a fit of anger.

Rosie Price - played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Aus) and Kirsty Oswald (UK) and Aubyn Heglie (US)[edit]

Rosie Price is the youngest daughter of the Price Family, aged 19. She does not know who she wants to be yet, and begins the play stating that she had just come back from a European adventure in Berlin, where she met a man called Emanuel and was walked out on. As she uncertain about her future, Fran and Bob see her as the opportunity to carry on their legacy the way they want to, keeping her close and always in contact. However, she reveals that she wants to move to Brisbane, thus breaking Bob's heart.

Pip Price - played by Georgia Adamson (Aus) Natalie Casey (UK) and Kelley Faulkner (US)[edit]

Pip Price is the second eldest daughter in the Price Family, and is an education bureaucrat. She had two daughters with her partner, Steve, but later reveals that she has fallen in love with another man who she met at a conference in Vancouver, who is also married. She feels distanced from her mother as she always felt like she was the least favored sibling, linked to the fact that her mother pulled her hair when she was twelve. She later moves to Vancouver in an attempt to be closer to the object of desire but decides to return home without him when her mother dies.

Mia Price - played by Tim Walters (Aus) & Matthew Barker (UK) and Kevin Kantor (US)[edit]

Mia Price is the eldest daughter of the Price Family and is an IT Specialist. She identifies as transgender and starts the play in the closet, referring to herself as her birth name, Mark. After thirty-two years, Mia comes out to her parents who react with shock. She reveals, to Fran and Bob's dismay, that she wishes to move to Sydney for hormonal treatment. She reveals that she has chosen the name "Mia" for herself as Rosie helps her pack. They exchange watches and, at this point, it appears that Rosie is the only one that understands. We do not see Mia presenting as a man again and we only see her presenting as a woman in the end scene, dressed all in black ready for her mother's funeral, with whom she never reconciled.

Ben Price - played by Nathan O'Keefe (Aus) & Richard Mylan (UK) and Zach Fifer (US)[edit]

Ben Price is the youngest son in the Price Family. He is a financial services officer. At first he appears to be the dunce of the family, but as the play continues it is revealed that Bob sees a great deal of himself within Ben. This relationship crumbles, however, as Bob discovers that Ben has been skimming, amounting to a total of $250,000. The two characters end up in a physical fight, removing both characters of their innocence.

Soundtrack[edit]

Things I Know to Be True features a soundtrack composed by Nils Frahm. Frahm's pieces, selected from his catalogue by directors Scott Graham and Geordie Brookman in conjunction with sound designer Andrew Howard, have one prominent instrument; the piano. Frahm insures that the piano's chords reflect the mood of the current scene, using minor keys for sadder scenes and slightly jazzier tones for happier ones.

Aside from Frahm's soundtrack, the work of Leonard Cohen is mentioned a number of times, which is particularly prominent as his death occurred just a few days before their first performance at the Chichester Minerva Theatre. His song 'Famous Blue Raincoat' is featured during Pip's letter to Fran, where she explains that it used to be Fran and Bob's song that they loved. Here are the lyrics from Cohen's hit that were adapted to fit the letter:

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record.

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Inspirations[edit]

The following is a list of mediums that Andrew Bovell has named as inspirations when writing, or rehearsing Things I Know to Be True: [2]

Medium Produced By Type of Medium Inspiration Within the Plot
Araby James Joyce Short Story Rosie's trip to Europe
Twilight Gregory Crewsden Visual Art The relationship between Pip, Rosie and Fran
Beneath the Roses
Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston Neil Liefer Image Bob's fight with Ben
Just , Radiohead Jamie Thraves Music Video Pip sitting in the garden
Ozymandias Percy Bysshe Shelley Sonnet Bob's Roses
The Birthday Chagall Painting Bob and Fran's Dance
Witness Peter Weir Film Not Said
Stop Making Sense Talking Heads Song
Krapp's Last Tape Samuel Beckett Play

Critical reception[edit]

Things I Know to Be True has widely received good reviews, with the average rating at around three and a half stars out of five.

The Guardian described the Frantic Assembly production as "a pleasure to watch", and the Radio Times stated that "It is a rare thing for a suburban family drama to resonate quite as acutely and uncomfortably as Things I Know to Be True", describing it as an "understated gem".[3][4] What's On Stage praised Bovell's writing ability as "good on the daily frictions of life".[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Things I Know to be True :: Production archive :: Lyric Hammersmith". www.lyric.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  2. ^ Assembly, Frantic (2016). "Things I Know to be True Resource Pack" (PDF).
  3. ^ Billington, Michael (2016-09-18). "Things I Know to Be True review – Imogen Stubbs stars in fractured family portrait". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  4. ^ "Things I Know to be True review: Imogen Stubbs stars in a powerful family drama ★★★★". RadioTimes. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  5. ^ "Review: Things I Know to Be True (Lyric Hammersmith)". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 2016-11-18.