They are finally here in York, so please don’t miss them!

Things I Know To Be True by Frantic Assembly

York Theatre Royal

Till Sat Nov 4

More details

The company was founded on a desire to do something different and are committed to making brave and bold theatre; their influence on contemporary style is immense and their latest production fulfils this utterly.

They were founded in 1994 at Swansea University and work collaboratively, using improvisation around the stories they create.

The author is part of the process, the actors are part of the story so that they are not simply playing out the author’s narrative.

Complex and intense

We meet a family in Things I Know To Be True and experience their strong bonds and struggles to escape from the ties of love and duty.

The set is built around the action and with the help of a sophisticated lighting scheme it is possible to strip scenery back to bare essentials. In this case it is the cave of the family home which uses 131 light bulbs.

The tree in the back yard grew with the family and symbolises their love, loss and dreams.

This production follows a successful Australian tour. The author is a leading Australian writer Andrew Bovell and the show is co-directed by Scott Graham and Geordie Brookman; Australian aspirations have been transferred to UK and prove to be universal.

‘A complex and intense study of the memories of family life’

The music by Nils Frahm makes a perfect connection between the scene and action.

It is a complex and intense study of the memories of family life and is both poetic and brutally frank: a universal tale of the need for the children to define themselves and grow beyond their parents’ expectations.

The play begins with scenes, ideas, fragments, thrown into space to show feeling and emotion.

The piece is not a series of events, many set pieces illuminate and explore the theme, such as daughter Rosie played by Kirsty Oswald who delivers a monologue during which we experience the familial embrace as she appears to float with the help of company members.

Producing the goods

The parents, played by John McArdie and Cate Harmer, explore a subtle relationship through dialogue which never hits a wrong note.

And there is visual impact with son Mark: a tortured character given depth by Matthew Barker, arriving home soaking wet to tell them something so private and yet basic to his future happiness.

Older daughter Pip, played by Seline Hizli, goes to Canada and her soul baring letter to her mother has them both sitting either end of the same table. Everyone returns to tell their story and Ben, a seemingly detached and successful son delivers the final blow.

Bob the father destroys the garden he has so carefully cultivated; it is a reminder to him that everything appears to be a lie.

It is a piece of theatre, experienced rather than described and gave me pause for thought. Mainly I questioned my laziness in seeing things portrayed in a linear style and accepting that format.

Sometimes we need a reassessment of visual art and Frantic Assembly are still producing the goods.