This review was commissioned by Southampton Daily Echo. Here’s a slightly longer version:
It is a tribute to Things I Know To Be True, which I saw at Nuffield Theatre Southampton, that, in all my evenings at the theatre, I can’t remember an audience more quiet than this one. Even coughs and sneezes were subdued in this engrossing and at times visceral production. The stillness was broken only by periodic laughter and widespread sobbing at the end.
This was all the more surprising because a significant portion of the audience were school/college parties and past experience suggested I was in for an evening of chatter and mobile phones.
Co-produced by Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company South Australia, the play presents us with a close, loving family comprising middle aged parents and their four grown up children.There follow revelations about each child and about the parents’ relationship that stretch the family ties.
Frantic Assembly adds physical theatre to riveting play
The kindly father and tough mother, played by the excellent Ewan Stewart and Cate Hamer, have to come to terms with the fact that, once children grow up, they are their own people, not ‘better versions of themselves’, as the father puts it. Your family may not be exactly like this one but you will recognise the situation and the complex relationships.
From the start we are aware that a tragedy is looming and the question of what business is going to be left unfinished hangs over all that happens. There are perhaps too many shocks crammed into two hours but Andrew Bovell’s writing, at times poetic and at others earthy, is nearly always believable. Many of the most touching moments are the quieter more domestic conversations.
Co-directed by Scott Graham of Frantic Assembly and Geordie Brookman of State Theatre Company South Australia, the production has two distinct styles. On the one hand, there is a riveting naturalistic drama with a minimal set that concentrates on the acting- and that acting is very good. Kirsty Oswald is moving as the fragile, barely adult Rosie still learning about life. Matthew Barker, Seline Hizli and Arthur Wilson play the older siblings.
On the other, there’s the physical theatre that Frantic Assembly are famous for. It was less evident than I expected. Once in a while actors moved furniture to accommodate others. On a few occasions they lifted someone into the air. This may have been intended to illustrate their inner emotional support and understanding of each other.
On this occasion, tender as the moments of physical theatre were, they sat uneasily alongside a naturalistic drama.
Things I Know To Be True continues at Nuffield Theatre until Saturday 18 November then at The Lighthouse Poole (21 – 25 November), Lyric Hammersmith (
11 January – 3 February 2018) and Bristol Old Vic (6-10 February 2018).