REVIEW: Things I Know To Be True: Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company of South Australia.

Imogen Stubbs

Imogen Stubbs

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A new play by Andrew Bovell, directed by Scott Graham and Geordie Brookman, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, until November 26.

In an increasingly-uncertain world, Frantic Assembly take to the stage with the news that there really is absolutely nothing we can take for granted.

‘Things I know to be true’ are tragically thin on the ground in this compelling, note-perfect, superb dissection of a family in melt down.

A mother, a father and their four children are brought to life before our eyes and then subjected to the temptations/heartbreaks/horrors (or revelations thereof) of all that the world can throw at them, except that each time it all gets a little bit worse for the next in line.

You’ll probably spend the interval wondering what on earth lies in wait for the family members so far unscathed by the first half of this parade of calamities. And yet it is so much more than that. Acting of the very highest order by six performers, each and every one an absolute natural on the stage, makes the characters rich, complex and fascinating – and yet at the same time so plausible and so ordinary. Which is precisely why this play packs the punch it does.

Ewan Stewart and Imogen Stubbs are the parents who have striven to bring up their children by the highest moral standards without ever being fully true to each other. Matthew Barker, Natalie Casey, Richard Mylan, Kirsty Oswald are the calamitous results, the fractured children.

And yet you can’t blame the parents. Times change; values change; our expectations of our dues rise; and our perceptions of our duties recede. The parents haven’t necessarily let the children down, but nor have they equipped them.

It is a brilliant, absorbing portrait. The gist seems to be that whatever happens, something worse will be along soon. But it’s quite mesmerising to watch – and superlatively acted by all concerned.

Frantic Assembly’s stylisations – particularly the super-slow-mo dances – remain just a bit baffling. But then again, maybe that’s the point. Despite all the hopes and the plans, everything in life is baffling. But at least, with Frantic Assembly, it ends up beautifully and poetically so – with occasional flashes of delightful humour.

Phil Hewitt

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