“From the Gumtree I could see the world…at least, our world”.
The Price family dynamic is familiar. There are spats, arguments, and the endearing bumblings of dad, Bob. The set, the backyard and garden of 25 Windarie Avenue, is pristine and pruned to perfection- save the overbearing and overgrown Gumtree. There’s a sense of preservation to the yard throughout, that the scene is kept as is, desperately afraid of change. Even as the years and seasons come and go, there’s a reluctance to disturb the garden- the place of family barbeques, weddings, and togetherness. There is a particular swiftness to the lighting (Emma Hunt), at times highlighting the porch, the rose bed or the faces. There’s a well-done sense of time and place, despite the set’s, and the story’s desire to remain the same.
Bob (played by Matthew Storey) is the kind of funny uncle, brother or friend that provides a warm sense of levity when you need it most. He is exquisitely performed by Storey, whose forward gait and witty remarks break the tension over and over. Then there’s mum, Fran (played by Amelia Watson) - the story’s potentially most complex character. She’s tough and difficult to understand, perpetually angry at the world - her world – while doing anything in her power to protect it. Watson’s performance is truly stand-out here, she creates an effortless backstory of difficult decisions, resilience and strength. I am left with her performance especially when the smallest of cracks allow us to see through to a woman tired of battles and world-weary.
The four children, Pip Price (Erin Bushe), Mark/Mia Price (Matthew Sedman), Rosy Price (Maddy Chisholm-Scott), and Ben Price (Liam Bradbury) are also very well played. However, save for Sedman and Chisholm-Scott’s touching scene, there’s a lacking sense of siblingship. Not perhaps necessarily of any more importance than to say that the children’s individual stories, their relationships with their parents are the focus here. That the family home, the yard, and the garden are the focus here.
The refrain “grow-up” hit almost too close to home, (as it will for nearly all fourth-year students,) watching the characters move through heartbreak and betrayal in search of acceptance (of themselves firstly). There’s a larger refrain too, the difference between “our world”, the familiarity of it, and “the world” that necessitates a leap into the unknown. I’m left with a sense of tenderness and introspection, that my world, my comfortable university world is about to end too- and what this means for the inevitability of moving into “the world”.
Things I Know to be True runs at Bedlam Theatre until 12 October 2019.