‘All happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’
Andrew Bovell seems to have been writing Things I Know To Be True with Tolstoy’s words lodged firmly in his subconscious. His incredibly crafted play introduces us to the Price family and the many subtleties of their particular unhappiness.
The first, and most lasting, impression we get from them is how much they love each other. How incredibly much they just love each other. And as we move through the play, receiving emotional blow after blow, hearing secrets and becoming the character’s confidants we begin to ask a question we never thought we would ever ask. Can family love each other too much?
Frantic Assembly is a joy to watch. Their choreography is a melding of chaos and style. Chairs, tables and boxes glide across the stage connecting perfectly with their necessary spot, seeming to barely touch the floor. The physical blocking and scene changes were so interwoven they felt integral to the narrative, rather than a means to the next scene.
The actors were powerfully suited to their roles, though unfortunately John McArdle had to withdraw due to ill health. Ewan Stewart stepped in to reprise the role of Bob Price, and he steps into it seamlessly. Stewart is calm, kind and loving .Yet he lives in a fixed point in time, unable to change and adapt to his children’s real lives.
The youngest child, Rosie, drives the majority of the action. She narrates and manoeuvres with a quiet strength, whilst still appearing vulnerable and lost. Kirsty Oswald plays Rosie expertly, both showing her nativity and unworldliness but never straying into silly or spoiled territory.
Pip and her mother Fran are two sides of the same coin. Seline Hizli and Cate Hamer clash and compete with a biting verve, but we never doubt the depth of their bond or the strength of their feeling for each other. Ben, played by Arthur Wilson, is an energetic, recognisable character. His descent is so frightening to watch because it is so painfully easy to see coming, but so impossible to stop from happening.
Mark is perhaps the most unknowable character. The other children have emotionally charged monologues that expose the cracks in their life, hinting at the troubles to come. This allowed the audience to form a deeper connection with them. I struggled to feel that with Mark, and it was only in his last scene that I caught a glimpse into his true struggle and inner turmoil.
Things I Know To Be True troubled me, it shook me and it moved me. I found their particular situations totally foreign and yet their story is universal. It was beautiful and angering and won’t fail to elicit an emotional response in every single audience member.
Things I Know To Be True is playing the Lyric Hammersmith until 3rd February. For more information and tickets, see lyric.co.uk/shows/things-i-know-to-be-true.