‘What are the things I know to be true?’, a naïve and broken-hearted 19-year-old Rosie Price (Eleni Koutsoukis) wonders after an ill-fated encounter hiccups her great European adventure, forcing her to return home to her family in Adelaide. Why wouldn’t she return when her family is the best thing since sliced bread? As we are introduced to youngest born Rosie’s siblings, Pip (Carlee Stockall), Mark (Luke Friedman) and more-money-than-sense Ben (Henry Fallows), Andrew Bovell’s perceptive suburban drama “Things I Know to be True” unfolds in a naturalistic tour of a tumultuous year in the life of the Australian working-class Price family.
The family is not without its tensions and through some lengthy monologues we learn more about the characters and their choices in life . Act One plods along, giving us some unexpected twists when Rosie’s adored brother Mark visits intending to talk to his parents (Alex Lanham as Bob and Cathy Price as France) about something important. Though there is much act two drama to come, Lanham and Stanley are at their best in this section of the story. While Fran is the play’s dominant figure, it is Lanham who anchors the show as the disappointed, self-sacrificial Bob.
The four children are each given a storyline alongside that of their parents. The play is, consequentially, an extended one, in an indulgent rather than a laboured way, but Bovell’s writing is good, especially in the second act, which sees a number of heightened emotional moments.
This is a play with many sharp angles to its plotting as the family travels through the seasons of life. Taylah Karpowicz’s lighting guides us nicely through the first flush to eventual reborn seasons that bear witness to the cycle of roses in Bob’s garden, his hobby since taking a redundancy package from his long-term car company employer. The garden is the world, Pip tells us in monologue that outlines the reason for her distance from her mother.
Baby-boomers Bob and Fran have worked hard to give their children the opportunities they never had. Now, with the kids ready to make lives of their own, it’s meant to be their time to sit back and smell the roses. But the change of the seasons reveals some shattering truths, leaving us to consider whether you can love too much. The journey to its poignant conclusion may be long, but it comes with some comic moments as distance, time and disagreements pull the characters apart before bringing them back together. There is a real beauty to the observances within Bovell’s writing. Beyond its contemporary issues, this is still a family of relatable characters and all the heart, humour and tragedy that comes from the ‘ordinariness’ of their relatable life-moments.