Small towns are known for their quiet, steady atmospheres where not much changes. For the Price Family of Halett Cove, that’s been true for 25 years. But this year everything’s in upheaval from affairs and coming outs to heartbreak and resolved regrets.
Andrew Bovell’s working class Australian drama unfolds in the family’s backyard; a place full of both memories and dreams for the Price parents and their four grown children. This set design by Carol Wimmer and Abby Bishop featured a big verandah, a gnarly old gum, and the prized rose bushes in blooming glory. The lighting design by James Winters was equally warm and familiar but the aesthetic was undercut by ill-timed interruptions from Joshua McNulty’s original music and Bernard Teuben’s sound design. In particular, the overlapping of music with the actors’ monologues detracted from the vulnerability of the direct-to-audience address. At other times, though, the gentle background hum of cicadas grounded the scene and made it authentic to Australia.
Things I Know to Be True is at its heart a family drama about change and the sting of disappointment between parents and children. The snappy, often snarky, dialogue was well-directed by Carol Wimmer but there were also frequent emotional beats that felt brushed over or rushed through by either the actors or the technical design. The script takes up the space of a year and could have benefitted from some breathing room to account for the enormous changes the characters were undergoing.
As much as Bob (Stephen Snars) and Fran (Annette van Roden) are the constants of the Price family, Rosie (Kate Jirelle) stands out as the family’s central figure. Rosie is the youngest and the first to leave Halett Cove for an overseas adventure that sends her right back to her family’s arms. She is naive and uncertain but resilient and she works as the glue holding the family together. Jirelle plays Rosie earnestly and emphatically so she cuts through the ostensibly larger dramas of her siblings. Pippa (Vivienne Rodda) and Mia (Adam Garden) are more reserved and are both played with believable heartbreak, especially in the face of their mother’s disapproval. Ben Freeman’s Ben is a tricky one, portrayed with perhaps a bit too much opacity from the gloss of a high-roller lifestyle.
Bovell’s script appeals to many for its sparkling truth, the way he captures the difficult squabbling of family, but the isolation and cruelty of the Prices is a heavy load to bear. As heartfelt as this production was, it too often elided the quiet and crushing moments of silence that punctuate their long year.
Things I Know to Be True is running at the Pavilion Theatre from February 5th – 27th
To help support Night Writes, please consider tipping.