Review: Things I Know To Be True, Belvoir Theatre (NSW)

Sylvie Woods

An amusing family drama by Andrew Bovell that shows the cracks in picture-perfect Australian suburbia.
Review: Things I Know To Be True, Belvoir Theatre (NSW)

Tony Martin as Bob. Photo: Heidrun Löhr.

Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True, directed by Belvoir’s own Neil Armfield, conjures cracks in picture-perfect Australian suburbia in the fraught manner of Matt Cameron’s Ruby Moon.

Within the family unit, in a home they built themselves, Bob (Tony Martin) and Fran (Helen Thomson) feel safe. They subscribe to traditional, working-class values of earning your own money, owning your own home, and giving all the kids ‘the same’. Fran’s a nurse while Bob’s worked hard all his life, and has retired. Now the roses in the backyard are his pride and joy.

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We meet the family when Bob and Fran’s youngest, Rosie (Miranda Daughtry), turns up in the backyard. She’s just returned from Berlin, where her cash got nicked, and her heart got broken. She doesn’t reveal that to anyone but us yet, though.

Nevertheless, and in a laugh-out-loud ensuing scene, Fran has called up every rello in the address book and told all the (adult) kids that they must come over, for she just knows something’s gone terribly wrong. Bob is reprimanding Rosie for ordering an Uber or ‘you-bar’ as he calls it, instead of allowing him to collect her from the airport.

The laughter doesn’t last long. Bob and Fran’s eldest daughter (Anna Lise Phillips) decides she’s leaving her husband, to Fran’s disgust. Shortly after, the eldest boy (Tom Hobbs) comes out as trans, and tells Bob and Fran he’s moving to Sydney. Fran says things to him that she can never take back. Finally, their son working in finance (Matt Levett) appeals to Bob and Fran for cash. It’s a desperate move: after stealing a couple of hundred thousand bucks from work, he’s likely to face jail-time.

Helen Thomson is especially watchable as the no-nonsense matriarch, Fran. Miranda Daughtry succeeds as the irreproachable youngest daughter Rosie, and Bovell’s dialogue is wonderfully entertaining.

However, I felt Bovell’s script represented Mark’s gender dysphoria as ‘another problem’, and certainly I’m tired of watching trans characters getting punished in their every portrayal in theatre. When Mark is told to never return home after coming out to his parents, it was a cliché making another trans character a victim, but also problematic in being nestled between the incontrovertible ‘moral errors’ of the other children: Pip’s pursuing a sexual relationship with a married man, and Ben being a crook.

Post-production festivities included an open bar for many of the show’s high-profile attendees, including Labor MP Tony Burke and Member for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton. Overall, Things I Know To Be True amounted to an enjoyable evening.

3 stars out of 5 ★★★

Things I Know To Be True
Written by Andrew Bovell
Director: Neil Armfield
Cast: Miranda Daughtry, Tom Hobbs, Matt Levett, Tony Martin, Anna Lise Phillips, Helen Thomson.
8 June-21 July 2019
Belvoir Theatre NSW
Tickets $30-$85

About the author

Sylvie Woods is an arts journo and copywriter from Sydney. Since 2017, she has been Lead Writer in NSW for CutCommon Magazine. You can read her arts journalism there, in Audrey Journal, Sydney Arts Guide, Sydney Scoop, Honi Soit, Australian Arts Review, Megaphone Oz, the BEAST Magazine and in ArtsHub. She holds a BA and a Masters in Publishing from The University of Sydney. She has a bold sartorial palette, and considers herself a micro-celebrity in Potts Point.