Woodplayers’ adaptation of Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know to be True was energetic, vibrant and deeply thought-provoking. The audience were thoroughly engaged in the story, which depicts the trials and tribulations of the seemingly everyday Price family, who live in Adelaide, Australia.
To stage Things I Know to be True is an ambitious feat, especially considering the Woodplayers had only a short rehearsal period. The play was written to include interspersed sequences of physical theatre and lifts, which represent the characters’ emotions and relationships contrasted with lengthy naturalistic dialogue. Transitioning between these two styles is very difficult, and I was impressed with how seamlessly the troupe managed this and that they didn’t shy away from challenging themselves. All the lifts were fluid and executed with precision – the entire cast must be praised.
The initial scene threw the audience directly into a state of suspense as a wide front-light beamed onto a mysterious figure clutching a phone, who we later learn is the father, played by Will Hobbs. As long shadows were cast upstage, disembodied voices delivered lines ominously from offstage, making the audience feel anxious about the meaning of the sudden spike of tension. The director, Bex Gray, must be praised for this creative opening. It really set the tense and anxious atmosphere that waxed and waned throughout the entire show.
A highlight for me was the second scene, where the Rosie, played by Jemima Abate, retells the stories of her adventure of self-discovery in Europe. Abate delivered this monologue with energy and flair, switching emotions believably and transitioning between the natural and the fantastical comfortably. She was able to capture the audience’s imaginations for a lengthy period of time, which I felt was very impressive. Will Hobbs must also be praised for his grounded portrayal of Bob Price, Rosie’s father. He balanced Bob’s love, loyalty and resolute moral code with care, making him a fleshed-out, multi-dimensional character. The stand-out performance for me however was that of Mark, played by Dylan Hicks. Without revealing too much, Mark is a very conflicted character and Hicks was successful in portraying this sensitively. I sympathised with him from the moment he shuffled onstage, fumbling with his shirt, and really felt his pain when the tension between him and his parents mounted.
A noteworthy stylistic choice was the weaving of a physical motif throughout the piece. Submerged within a blue-green wash, the cast would line-up shoulder-to-shoulder across the stage diagonally and hold hands after every episode of tension within the family. They would then lean forwards in alternate directions, suspend the position, then tilt back. This was effective as it helped the audience understand the unity (and disunity) of the Price family and stayed true to the style of the original play.
Overall, Woodplayers portrayed the anguish of a family burdened with incessant moral challenges very convincingly. They made me believe the characters’ suffering when the inconsistencies of life crumbled their wishes and dreams and how sometimes the only thing you know to be true in the world is the love that binds a family together. The performance was outstanding. I recommend everyone goes to watch it; the cast deserves a full house each night.
By Harrison Newsham