Saturday, 11 June 2016

Things I Know to be True, State Theatre Company of South Australia and Frantic Assembly, Canberra Theatre

Andrew Bovell is a rare Australian writer who can sell tickets based largely on his name alone, and can get regular overseas productions (both "Speaking in Tongues" and "When the Rain STopped Falling" had successful seasons in New York and London). His new play is in many ways a simple family drama (the entire cast consists of a mum, a dad and their four adult children), but a superlatively written and staged one.

The structure is in many ways pretty simple. Rosie returns from a European trip that goes wrong, to return to the certainties of her Adelaide-based families. Except of course very little of those certainties remain constant, and the family is shaken repeatedly as events sever the siblings from their parents. In some ways the writing is a little schematic (each of Rosie's siblings has a scene with the parents with Rosie looking on that reveals something about them), but Bovell's writing gets the characters out of being simple plot-devices and into fully rounded people with mixed and complex reactions to their situation - as it becomes clear to Rosie (and us) that home isn't immune to the world's shifting challenges.

The show is co-directed and co-produced, with Geordie Brookman from State Theatre Company of South Australia and Scott Graham from Frantic Assembly (A UK based company specialising in highly physical theatre). The collaboration leads to a production that is uniquely fascinating, as it lets Bovell's longer monologues develop into semi-dance pieces, with movement of cast, set and lighting (both set and lighting are designed GEoff Cobham, and set and lighitng are unusually tightly integrated in the story-telling) illuminating the stories told and tightly choreographed to fascinating effect.

All of the cast are particularly strong - Tilda Cobham-Harvey has a background that is largely dance and cinema-based, but you wouldn't know it from her assured, heartfelt performance as Rosie - she has the skills of a true theatre vet. Paul Blackwell IS a true theatre-vet and contributes the other beating heart of the show as the father who tries to keep his family vaguely together even as they all drift further and further apart.

This is astounding, engrossing, heart-engaging theatreStrongly recommended.

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