Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

30/04/2021 - 29/05/2021

The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

20/03/2021 - 17/04/2021

Production Details

“An intricate, inventive study of family life. Genuinely beautiful.” – Evening Standard

‘A thing of beauty, exquisitely observed. An absolute gem.’★★★★★  — The Daily Telegraph

From the writer of When the Rain Stops Falling and Lantana, this is theatre that proves we share so much more than we think.

They’ve brought up four kids. They’ve paid off the house. And they’ve loved each other for over thirty years. It should be time for Fran and Bob to slow down and smell the roses, but the lives of their wildly complicated adult children are about to come crashing through the back door.

Things that were once believed to be true are exposed, challenging the foundations of family and demanding new definition.

From August: Osage County to Joyful and Triumphant, Circa Theatre has a rich history of celebrating family. With rich insight, brilliant humour and a whole lot of heart, Andrew Bovell paints a vivid portrait of home: the expectations that trap us and the love that keeps us coming back.  

“Reaches into your heart from its opening moments and keeps you gripped until its shattering end.”  ★★★★ ½, — Limelight

“An unforgettable image of tenderness and compassion.” ★★★★ ½ — The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Tender, physical and deeply relatable.’ ★★★★ — The Guardian

“Standing ovation for powerful family drama. This is a dark ride at times, with some big surprises along the way, that carries you effortlessly along to a satisfying conclusion.” — Stuff

Circa One, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington Waterfront
30 April – 29 May 2021
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm 
Fri – Sat 8pm
Sun 4pm
$30 Preview – Fri 30 April
$25 – $52
*‘Concession’ price (Community Services Card, Gold Card or student ID required)
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Things I Know to be True was first produced by State Theatre Company of South Australia and Frantic Assembly in 2016.
This production first played at The Court Theatre, Christchurch, 20 March – 17 April 2021

Bob Price:  Stephen Lovatt
Pip Price:  Heather O’Carroll
Ben Price:  Daniel Watterson
Mark/Mia Price:  Jthan Morgan (Simon Leary in the Christchirch season)
Rosie Price:  Caitlin Rivers
Fran Price:  Lara Macgregor 

Director:  Shane Bosher
Set Designer:  Andrew Foster
Costume Design:  Tina Hutchison-Thomas
Lighting Design:  Marcus McShane based on an original design by Sean Lynch
Sound Design & Composition:  Matt Short 

Stage Manager:  Natasha Thyne
Technical Operation:  Niamh Campbell-Ward
Set Construction:  Blair Ryan, Bryce Goddard
Costume Construction:  Deborah Moor
Properties Design & Construction:  Julian Southgate
Marketing Design & Publicity:  Ben Emerson
Production Photography:  Danielle Colvin, Ryan Smith, Philip Merry, Roc Torio
FOH Management:  Harish Purohit
Box Office:  Eleanor Strathern Tyler Clarke
Technical Management:  Deb McGuire

Theatre ,

2 hrs 40 mins, incl. interval

A sort of elegiac tragedy without villains or fatal flaws

Review by Mallory Stevenson 18th May 2021

Since its premiere in 2016, Things I Know To Be True has been produced in Australia, the US and Britain, with a Netflix adaptation apparently on the way. It’s easy to see why: this is a rich, emotional family drama, hard-hitting but not grim or sceptical. It sometimes risks the cliches of argument-heavy realism, but its amazing psychological perceptiveness and moving depiction of generational conflict make it a sure hit, at least in a production as assured as this one.

Playwright Andrew Bovell drew material from devising sessions held with the original Australian cast, in which they discussed and improvised around their family histories. I imagine this semi-documentary approach can be credited with the play’s extraordinarily acute sense of characterisation. This family makes the Australian (or New Zealand, or British…) white middle-class of today incredibly visible. Their dense net of social generosities and conflicts, financial aspirations, marriages and arguments about housework simmer through scenes of affection and bitterness. It’s the stuff of life at its most mundane, brought to the theatrical boil through gorgeous prose and engagingly paced plotting. 

This psychological approach does bring the danger of a sort of old-fashioned realist domestic drama. The dynamic within the family is communicated vividly, with everything happening outside and inside the same house. The things that tempt the children away from that way of life, on the other hand, are represented primarily by the arguments that they cause, along with a couple of quite beautiful monologues. It doesn’t kill the play but it sometimes limits our investment in those climactic fights and breakdowns. 

The performers place the emphasis firmly on the script’s best qualities. Under Shane Bosher’s direction, the action unfolds beautifully and with a great sense of purpose. Stephen Lovatt’s dad is a fantastic spin on the Kiwi male archetype. He speaks well but it’s his pauses and mask-like stares that speak volumes. Fran, the mother, is the most vividly realised character in the play and Lara McGregor does justice to her depths. Heather O’Carroll is the most vocally lyrical of the cast, giving a particularly moving performance of her monologue. Daniel Watterson makes his businessman character stunningly recognisable – anxious, thoughtful, braggadocious, afraid. As the more insecure children of the family, Caitlin Rivers and Jthan Morgan manage to keep the audience hooked with their careful pacing while giving the illusion of real awkwardness.

Andrew Foster’s set design gives the actors no more or less than what they need. Sooner or later, every part of it acquires some emotional significance. It’s strikingly aided by Marcus McShane’s lighting, which is often responsible for making real theatre out of scene transitions. The costumes by Tina Hutchison-Thomas speak perfectly to their characters and the lives they lead outside the house. 

This Court Theatre / Circa Theatre co-production premiered in Christchurch where it caused more controversy than might have been expected because a gay man had been cast in the role of a transgender character. (Public apologies ensued from both companies and the role was recast for Wellington with the full support of the original actor.)

The crucial point was that a trans woman should not be implied to be a type of man. I feel that the Circa team have been careful enough to mostly avoid that implication. This certainly isn’t a play about transness and the appearance of a transgender character mostly serves as another challenge to the parents’ assumptions. She’s portrayed with the same psychological depth as everyone else and isn’t assumed to represent trans people as a group. This play is unlikely to change anyone’s understanding of trans people, for better or for worse. 

In general, it’s not a play which expresses any political opinion. It is largely about gender and economics, but only inasmuch as they affect the characters emotionally. By portraying the underlying conflicts as basically generational, the audience is allowed to identify comfortably with the characters. When those conflicts explode and the characters throw themselves against the beliefs that they live by, this identification becomes cathartic. It asks many questions without suggesting any answers, provoking strong emotions without challenging us to think of them as anything less than inevitable, hard facts of life.

It’s incredibly effective, creating a sort of elegiac tragedy without villains or fatal flaws. In the future, Wellington may well see several more productions of Things I Know To Be True, but this Court/Circa original will be a hard act to follow.  


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Cast outstanding in powerful family drama

Review by Sonya Stewart 03rd May 2021

Families are complicated, and the Prices are no exception. Mum, dad and four kids, they are a mix of intimacy and secrets, humour and conflict. A dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, fills Bob Price (the magnificent Stephen Lovatt) with fear and trepidation for his children.

Rewinding time, we first meet the youngest child Rosie (the lovely Caitlin Rivers), on her way back home after a romantic disappointment in Berlin. The most idealistic of the siblings, her surprise return to the home is the introduction to the casual closeness of the family. [More


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Standing ovation for powerful family drama

Review by Liz Crawshaw 03rd May 2021

Things I Know To Be True is set in a beloved family garden steeped in childhood memories, lovingly tended by the quiet, stoic Bob Price (Stephen Lovatt).

There’s not a leaf out of place, the roses mulched and pruned to within an inch of their lives.

Bob’s determined taming of nature is reflected in the pared-back, elegant set by Andrew Foster. It is in stark contrast to the turbulent messiness of the family’s personal lives, laid bare in this powerful family drama. [More]


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Truth-bomb depth-charges compel our empathy

Review by John Smythe 02nd May 2021

What price family? The toll they take on our emotions, for good and ill, is unsurpassed. But there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. Yet there comes a time when you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. And the more things change … the more they can never be the same.  

This Price family, in Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know to be True, certainly trades in truisms with a few twists. As a young ‘working class’ couple in suburbia, Bob and Fran Price set out to raise their family and provide for them through hard work: Bob on a car manufacturing assembly line; Fran as a hospital nurse. Now their four children are adult and middle class. So far so extraordinarily ordinary.

“If you love someone,” as the saying goes, “set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If not, they never were.” Yes, well, that might be true with a budgerigar but when the loved Price children come back it’s not so simple. In each case, Fran and Bob intuitively know something’s wrong – and they’re right.

Setting it mostly in the back yard of the family’s suburban home (in Adelaide, Australia, but it could be anywhere), Bovell essays his play about transition and change through autumn, winter, spring and summer. Now-retired Bob’s row of rose bushes mark the seasons – each of which brings a new crisis from one of the children.

In this Shane Bosher-directed Court Theatre/ Circa Theatre co-production, Andrew Forster’s set design, lit by Marcus McShane (based on Sean Lynch’s design in Christchurch), features a wall of shadowy trees and foliage, and the roots of a tree hanging from the sky – variations, perhaps, on Bovell’s Lantana motif (the screen adaptation of his Speaking in Tongues) and When the Rain Stops Falling, in which a fish falls from the sky (both previously directed by Bosher with Auckland’s Silo Theatre). Fluid transitions in time and space – some scenes use a table or chairs to indicate ‘inside the house’ – draw our full focus to the essence of the dramatic interactions, recalling Bosher’s 2019 production of Cock at Circa.

As the youngest child, Rosie, Caitlin Rivers emulates the innocent abroad on a classic learning curve who returns home earlier than expected, needing the certainty of ‘home’. But what transpires over the next year subverts her list of ‘things she knows to be true’ and thrusts adulthood upon her earlier than she wants.  

Heather O’Carroll’s Pip, the older sister, has defaulted to the expected norm by getting married and settling down nearby to have children, while working in the public sector. The predictability of her future is subverted by an incident that sees her take a job in Canada, leaving her husband and daughters behind – incited, an analyst might say, by two contrasting experiences she had as a 12 year-old. Her underlying self-esteem issues, provoked by her mother, remain unresolved.

The oldest child, Mark, keeps herself to himself, in a manner of speaking (preferred pronouns are not specified), until their transitional declaration of true gender, self-known to be true for 20 years, completely demolishes one of the few truths the parents thought they could be sure of. Jthan Morgan (stepping into the role with the full support of Simon Leary, who played Mark/Mia at The Court) compels our empathy utterly, as Bob and Fran detonate outburst after outburst in their confusion – bringing Act One to a very dramatic conclusion.

The closest conversation between siblings in the play occurs between Mark/Mia and Rosie, and yet it is about the importance of breaking from familial expectations in order to become your true self (a quest as old as Odysseus). This is just one of the countless elements that are bound to resonate with all audiences, regardless of gender or culture, which renders Things I Know to be True timeless and universal.

Having noted son Ben, sharply delineated by Daniel Watterson, still expects his doting mother to wash and iron his business shirts, despite being ‘upwardly mobile’ in the corporate sector with a flash car to prove it, we know his crisis is yet to come. While many will predict its nature, the way it plays out is riveting, compelling us to ask what we would have said or done, on both sides of the argument.

All four Price siblings get to live through a range of emotions and all four actors rise to the challenge with heartfelt truth. Likewise the parents … Given the children’s returns to the fold, it’s tempting to say Fran and Bob are the glue that holds the family together – and yes they are, until they’re not. Trying to work out who or what is the solvent that makes them come unstuck will prompt many a post-play discussion.

Bob started work at the factory when he was 16, married his childhood sweetheart and did everything he thought was right. In the role, Stephen Lovett epitomises the man whose need to believe in the certainties of life, including certain moral values, has made him a good man, husband and father, yet his fear of deviation from that code has limited him. From genuinely loving through thunderously enraged to lost and bewildered, Lovett embodies a man we all know.

The demands on Fran give her nowhere to hide, and Lara Macgregor nails every contrasting and demanding dimension. Her outbursts are shocking – not least in the ongoing conflict with Pip, let alone her reaction to Mark’s intention to be Mia. Her commitment to her children is equally profound, sometimes belied by what she says. As for her relationship with Bob and the role she has accepted in life – let’s just say she speaks truth to disempowerment in no uncertain manner.

There is, of course, much more remarkably recognisable detail in what happens that I can reveal here and the shock of recognition invariably provokes laughter. In its own way, Things I Know to be True proves that the only thing we can be sure of is uncertainly. We all know there are strategies for expecting the unexpected, rolling with the punches and dancing with chaos but no-one is immune from the realities this play distils. From go to whoa you can feel the truth-bomb depth-charges going off within your own being as well as throughout the auditorium.  

Amid our inevitable post-play discussion, my partner and I agreed the material inherent in this distillation could be expanded into a TV series – and now I’ve discovered Nicole Kidman has bought the rights to do just that, with Andrew Bovell writing the scripts. But don’t wait for that – nothing can beat the live theatre experience.  


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