Three chairs stage right, multiple lights hanging from the roof at different lengths, an open stage framed by a white picket fence and a pale indigo light, set the stage before the show starts. An instant sense of panic sets in with an opening monologue about getting a call late at night, knowing that the there is a high chance the character is about to receive bad news about someone he loves. This sets the tone for Things I know To Be True, a new play by South Australian playwright Andrew Bovell – previous works including his screenplay Lantana and the screen adaptation of The Secret River.
This is a collaboration with State Theatre Company of South Australia and physical theatre company Frantic Assembly (UK). A refreshing collaboration, opening up possibilities of stylised vigorous movement, interwoven to the fabric of the play. Set in South Australia, audiences are instantly hooked by references to local settings and are therefore more comfortable connecting to the heavy content. It is a work that speaks to our most fragile essence. It taps into everyday issues in a way that sets our deepest insecurities on fire but is sugar coated with sharp wit and light humour. It explores family life in a way we can all relate to, asking the question; what is most important to us and why? The plot follows a family of six, all with equally troubling personal issues, grappling for each other’s attention, love and affection - however each character, only sees their own selfish point of view. This causes chaos and provides a dry reflection on what we deem to be reality persisting through our own hopes and desires, versus the reality of what is actually true.
The play explores grief and loss and highlights our own fragility and vulnerability when it comes to the acceptance of death. It highlights that we are never truly ready for the inevitable and we always think there will be more time, when the reality is that everyday could be our last. However, his play mainly, is a tribute to love and what we are capable of enduring, when we decide we love – sometimes even ignoring our own true calling, to live a life that is expected of us, instead. Can we, and should we, rise to our own true calling, even if it is selfish?
The collaboration of directors Geordie Brookman (State Theatre Company of SA) and Scott Graham (Frantic Assembly) is an exciting partnership. As Brookman described in a Q&A platform, the movement is “like an extension of the script, it is the subtext.” Much like the music and the set design, the movement is what needs to be said, once words are not enough; “it must burst out of the characters out of sheer necessity.” The cast describe the process as well guided and creatively fluid, as they were able to explore their creative ideas in every area of the production – set design, script, costume, character development and music – and they were well equipped with Frantic Assembly’s movement training techniques to execute the movement present in the play with grace.
The set design featured Thom Buchanan, Adelaide based visual artist, well known for his live art performances in collaboration with South Australian based dance company Australian Dance Theatre. This work was a backdrop which lit up to look like a night portrayal of the Southern expressway. It was striking and effective.
Unfortunately Things I Know To Be true finished its Adelaide season tonight, but will continue touring around Australia and the UK over the next couple of months. Look out for State Theatre's upcoming performance Strange White Men by Young Jean Lee.
Directors: Geordie Brookman & Scott Graham
Set and Lighting designer: Geoff Cobham
Costume Designer: Ailsa Paterson
Sound Designer: Andrew Howard
Cast includes: Paul Blackwell, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Eugenia Fragos, Nathan O’Keefe, Tim Walter, Georgia Adamson
Featuring Music by Nils Frahm
Original artwork by Thom Buchanan
Header image via State Theatre Company of SA