Things I Know To Be True is the first show I’ve seen at the Old Vic that doesn’t involve lots of singing and dancing – it’s an actual proper play, albeit one with element of contemporary dance. It was also full of what appeared to be sixth-form students. These two things made me a little apprehensive about how much I’d like it.
‘Viv, how am I supposed to review this?’ I asked my companion.
‘Just say how it made you feel,’ she replied.
I don’t do talking about feelings very well. She knows this. But, for what it’s worth, this is what the play made me feel: entertained, amused, tearful, rueful, sad, warm, agitated. Small smiles of recognition. Bemusement. Confused about how the lives of a family in suburban Australia who have members so different to my own still manage to reflect so many interactions and family dynamics that are completely familiar.
The cast of six play the affection and frustration and conflicts between family members beautifully. Rosie (Kirsty Oswald) the youngest child returns from adventures abroad, her sister Pip (Seline Hizli) takes a job in Canada (leaving the kids with their dad in Australia, the hussy!), their brother Mark (Matthew Barker) tells his family that he is a woman in a man’s body, and the other brother (Ben, Arthur Wilson) gets in a mess by stealing a large amount of money. Their parents (Bob, John McArdle and Fran, Cate Hamer) – well, they don’t take it all in their stride, but nothing gets physically broken and there is a distinct impression that it might just all work out fine in the end, even if it’s definitely not the living-down-the-road-with-the-grandkids-and-barbies-every-weekend family that Bob worked so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve. At the start Rosie states that among the few things she knows to be true is that her family home ‘things are the same as when I left and they always will be’. At the end she finds that although this is wrong there are other thing she knows, about grief and disappointment and loss, and that life goes on.
Twenty four hours later, I’m suspecting that this is one of those pieces that is going to stick in my head, and that little bits of it, ideas and lines and moments of recognition are going to pop up over time and that it may even influence how my relationships with my own family are viewed. Like the family in this show, none of us are perfect (although like Rosie I am the youngest of four and therefore somehow a little less imperfect than the others) but there is still genuine affection and care and maybe even the L-word although I’d never tell any of them that.
I’m also looking at my own relationship with my own still-young children and wondering how it will be when it’s time for me to let them go, whether I am building an imaginary future for them that involves me possibly having more input than is healthy for any of us or whether I will be able to let the bonds stretch when we’re there. So yes, no singing and dancing and fancy outfits in this show but still very, very worthwhile and I’m glad I saw it.
See what else is on at Bristol Old Vic here