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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

A Look Inside the Latest Production to Hit the Belvoir Stage

Sneak a peek at what a year in the life of an Australian family looks like according to the theatre company.
By Matt Abotomey
June 20, 2019
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A Look Inside the Latest Production to Hit the Belvoir Stage

Sneak a peek at what a year in the life of an Australian family looks like according to the theatre company.
By Matt Abotomey
June 20, 2019
  shares

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The writer who gave us Strictly Ballroom, Lantana and a host of other cinematic and theatrical gems, has returned to Belvoir. And this time, Andrew Bovell is focusing in on a subject we can all relate to — family drama. After lauded runs in South Australia, the UK and US, Things I Know to Be True comes to Sydney, tracking a tumultuous year in the lives of the Price family. Belvoir will welcome to its stage a slew of theatre greats as they deliver an intimate look into a year in the life of an Australian family. Read on for just a few reasons why you should make a beeline for Things I Know to Be True.

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THE REVIEWS

Since its 2016 premiere, Things I Know to Be True, has clocked some serious mileage. After a cracking Adelaide season, in which the Adelaide Review described it as "a moving and beautifully crafted piece that succinctly captures the dilemma present in so much of contemporary Australian life and family", it headed off to the UK. Praise was no less lavish across the pond, with The Guardian describing it as a "pleasure to watch". With a little bit of tweaking, it then had a celebrated season in the US, with the Chicago Tribune describing Bovell as "chronically under-appreciated" and responsible for crafting "one of the best new plays of the year".

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THE TEAM

Director Neil Armfield describes Things I Know to Be True as a play about movement, change, returning home and the 'tension between home and the world'. In a tidy little nod from life to art, this production has lured a number of Belvoir alumni back to boards they haven't trod for a while. Armfield, who's returning for the first time in almost a decade, said he's particularly excited to be at Belvoir again: "It's a company that I love and with which I have a relationship unlike any other company…it's lovely to come back and play in that room." Additional returning heavyweights include Tony Martin as Bob Price, a recent retiree who's lavishing his newfound freedom on his roses, and Helen Thomson as Fran Price, a nurse who somehow finds the time to get overly involved in her children's lives. And there's no less gravitas coming from the kids' table, with Anna Lise Phillips, Miranda Daughtry, Tom Hobbs and Matt Levett filling out the rest of the family album.

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THE STORY

Things I Know to Be True is blessed with, as Armfield puts it, "structural purity". The play takes place over the course of a year, with each season dedicated to one of the children and the myriad problems they bring home to (or attempt to hide from) their parents. Rosie has just had her heart crushed while travelling in Europe. Pip's contemplating detonating her marriage. Mark is beginning to suspect that his identity has to change, while Ben sees a chance to make some serious money without realising the true cost. At the centre of the maelstrom are Bob and Fran, middle-class parents who have laboured physically and emotionally to ensure their children's happiness. But they don't have ready solutions any more and often struggle to find the next best thing — acceptance.

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THE CHARACTERS

From the overbearing mother to the overly idealistic and heartbroken daughter to the son risking too much for a quick buck, one of the great strengths of Things I Know to Be True is how recognisable its characters are. Bovell's play, set in the South Australian town of Hallett Cove, is at once uniquely Australian and an archetypical nuclear family drama. Discussing the matriarch Fran for Belvoir's podcast, Thomson laughingly admits that she is unsure to what degree she is playing the character and vice versa. "I relate a lot to Fran," Thomson revealed. "I would like to think I'm not as controlling, but it is that whole thing as a mother of knowing when to step in and when to step out." Armfield expands on this, saying that Bovell's work resonates with audiences because great writers don't just "write about their own family, but they're writing about all families".

Bovell's definition of family is bitter-sweet: "it's the thing we spend our lives running away from and wishing we could run back to." Things I Know to Be True is truthful, sometimes painfully so, but as with most family-oriented pursuits, it's worth the investment.

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Things I Know to Be True is showing at Belvoir Theatre till Sunday, July 21. Full price tickets start at $65 and 30-Down tickets at $43. To book tickets and find out more about Belvoir's latest must-see, visit the website.

Published on June 20, 2019 by Matt Abotomey

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