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A CurtainUp London Review
Things I Know to Be True
"Can we have a conversation for once that doesn't begin with you making a list of everything that's wrong with me? And could you stand still for half a minute because I'm trying to tell you something here and it's not easy." — Mark
Things I Know to Be True
Cast (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Is there a show on which Frantic Assembly cannot work their magic? Their co–founders Steve Hoggett and Scott Graham have been responsible for some of the most exciting physical theatre in London over the last two decades. From shows like Black Watch, The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time to Harry Potter – The Cursed Child, they raise the movement game to a spectacular level. It is Scott Graham, now also directing films, without Steve Hoggett tied up in Hogwarts, who co-directs alongside Geordie Brookman from the State Theatre Company of South Australia.

I imagine that the balletic episodes which transpose a mere play into something altogether more visually poetic must be akin to the compulsory ballet that was a feature of the early musicals. Our first glimpse of this talent is when Rosie (Kirsty Oswald) the youngest of Bob and Fran's (Ewan Stewart and Imogen Stubbs) quartet of Australian raised children experiences love in Berlin with, the beautiful on the surface, Emmanuel from Madrid. Rosie is carried aloft as the ecstasy of being loved by a gorgeous man is expressed. After a shattering disappointment, smashing her fantasies, Rosie has to return home from Europe to Australia where her mother perceives her unhappiness and Rosie is subjected to a battery of questions. "Somebody hurt her" says Fran. "Did he hurt you?" asks her father Bob. "Who hurt you?" asks her sister Pip. We meet brothers Ben (Richard Mylan) succeeding in business and Mark (Matthew Barker) seemingly withdrawn and unhappy.

Imogen Stubbs is riveting as the mother, sometimes awful and tactless and again the movement is beautiful as the "children" react to their mother's control. Each of the younger generation's story is told by them in an animated monologue.

Elder daughter Pip announces that she is to go to Vancouver for 12 months to do a job there. Immediately her mother says, "Look at me and tell me there is no other man!" Fran may be acerbic but her instincts are damnably accurate. Mark is getting stick for the recent break up of his marriage to Taylor. As they start to think that Mark might be gay, his father jokingly blurts out a more serious scenario which complies with the many a true word spoken in jest idiom.

The speech from Fran about coming to terms with her son's life decision is heart breaking. She may be controlling and annoying but what mother could not sympathise with her fears for her first born child. This scene will stay with me for ever.

In the second act Rosie decides to move away from home although Mark says to her, "Stay and be the one they want". Another ballet has Fran held aloft as she and Bob contemplate life beyond the children. We hear more about Bob's early retirement from the car manufacturer at 56. Middle child Ben comes to his family in crisis and his mother offers a solution which upsets Bob.

The finale is both touching and tragic but brings the family home. As Bob is lovingly dressed in a suit by his children we see a metaphor for the coming together of the children caring for their father. Have we seen a family over-dramatised for soap opera type story lines or are they representative of the trials and obstacles found in a normal family? Imogen Stubbs is marvellous as a mother cursed with her insight into the inner lives of her children.

In a frame, Ewan Stewart towards the end of the play reflects its opening by standing at a 45 degree angle to the ground in his pyjama bottoms and holding the pulled up rose trees he has cultivated and loved. The directors have chosen not to use Australian accents but to allow the actors their own regional accent.

Andrew Bovell's writing is the opposite of neat, happy endings and reminds us of the ties that bind and the flaws that can damage family life. For me, Things I Know To Be True is full of meaning and sentiment.

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Things I Know to Be True
Written by Andrew Bovell
Directed by Scott Graham and Geordie Brookman
Starring Imogen Stubbs, Ewan Stewart, Matthew Barker, Natalie Casey, Richard Mylan, Kirsty Oswald
Set and lighting design by Geoff Cobham
Sound Design: Andrew Howard
Costume Design: Ailsa Paterson
Movement: Patricia Okenwa
Running time: Two Hours 20 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 8741 6850
Booking to 1st October 2016 at the Lyric Hammersmith then

Oxford Playhouse 4th October – 8th October 2016
Box Office: 01865 305 305
Warwick Arts Centre 11th October - 22nd October 2016
Box Office: 024 7652 4524
Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse (Playhouse Theatre)
2nd November – 5th November 2016
Box Office: 0151 709 4776
The Lowry (Quays Theatre) 8th November – 12th November 2016
Box Office: 0843 208 6000
Chichester Festival Theatre (Minerva Theatre)
15th November – 26th November 2016
Box Office: 01243 781312
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th September 2016 performance at Lyric Theatre, King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0QL (Tube: Hammersmith)
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