We all think our own families are dysfunctional. Few of us understand our parents, fewer are understood by their parents and siblings (if we have them) are both our closest ally and worst enemy. Things I Know to be True, written by Andrew Bovell and now playing at the wonderful Lyric Hammersmith, holds an eye to the microscope on the Price family, a typical suburban family, and watches as their lives intertwine and fall apart. It is an intense, invasive and emotional portrayal of a family and it is absolutely amazing.
Rosie, the youngest daughter played perfectly by Kirsty Oswald, returns to the safety of her family following a disastrous backpacking trip around Europe. She needs to be coddled and finds her solace within the protection of her older siblings and parents. But Pip, performed by Natalie Casey who steals the performance with her heart-wrenching and gut-twisting portrayal of a woman desperate to be loved, is having marriage trouble. Mark, played with great sensitivity by Matthew Barker, has a secret to reveal that rips his relationship with his parents, while Ben, acted by Richard Mylan, has a confession of his own that threatens the relationship between his parents. And reigning over them all is matriarch Fran, played by Imogen Stubbs, a straight-to-the-point and relentless mother, and Bob, who is quite possibly the most Dad of all dads played by Ewan Stewart, who has toiled to give his family everything he never had. These relationships are at once fragile and splintered but unbreakable and ever-lasting. The way they writhe throughout the story is such a precise depiction of family politics; in many ways, it is closer to than bone than many viewers would care for.
The production of this is truly masterful. The whole play is choreographed like some sublime dance, with the smoothest scene changes. Monologues dapple the story as do beautiful dance sequences to the unmistakable soundtrack of composer Nils Frahm. The set grows ever so gradually throughout the scenes until a violent climax and it is spectacular to watch.
When Things I Know to be True finished, the audience rose to its feet and many were crying. The script, story and portrayal on the stage had a poignant resonance and a shared sense of family. It is a formidable play and production, and when you leave, you want to call your parents and all your siblings – no matter how dysfunctional the relationships are.
Things I Know to be True is at Lyric Hammersmith until 1st October 2016.