CEL Masthead Winter 18

Family dynamics in the spotlight

Laura Peppas

There is a scene in Andrew Bovell’s production of Things I Know To Be True where a mother and her eldest daughter are having a disagreement.

The mother, Fran, is arguing the point that children need their mother. Daughter Pip replies: “Not if she’s unhappy.”

It’s a pivotal scene in a play that closely examines family dynamics, and poses a question that will surely resonate with parents everywhere – should you ever put your happiness ahead of your family?

Coming to the Canberra Theatre Centre from 8 June, Things I Know To Be True centers around a typical Adelaide suburban family headed by working-class parents Bob and Fran, and told through the experiences of their four adult children.


The story unfolds through four seasons, each containing a crisis, such as death, sexuality and separation. Somehow the aching need for more resonates through each of the characters, leaving everyone determined to find their own happiness.

Based on the real life experiences of Australians told to playwright Bovell in a series of creative development sessions, the play has had rave reviews ahead of its Canberra tour.

The actors who portray mother and daughter Fran and Pip, Eugenia Fragos (The Slap) and Georgia Adamson, agree the production will particularly resonate with women as it explores “the layers of guilt” often experienced in family life.

“The character of Pip is in her mid-30s and really at a point in her life where she’s trying to make the juggle between being a mother, a wife, a career woman and a happy human,” Georgia says.

“I see Pip as being at a crossroads in her life with balancing all the different elements she has in her life and trying to work out what is going to make her genuinely happy as a woman.”

Meanwhile Eugenia’s Fran is a career woman in her own right, a nurse who would kill for her kids, but “is one of those mothers with a temper.”

“Response to Fran’s character seems to be based around whether you understand women with a temper or not,” Eugenia says.

“That sets the tone for a very intense mother/daughter relationship and a very tense dynamic between the rest of the family. I think a lot of people can relate to that dynamic.

“It also raises the question if you sacrifice your own happiness to create a stable world for your kids, are you parenting them with all of yourself or not. I guess that, particularly for women, it’s a question of how parenting works. Do I want them to see that parenting is a sacrifice for who I am for the sake of my children or do I want them to grow as an adult?”


Told through monologues, the play isn’t your average “stand and deliver” production, with a largely physical aspect – so much so, rehearsals included two hours of fitness sessions every morning before the actors turned to the script.

“There’s a scene where one of the daughters, Rosie, is talking about falling in love and there’s a moment where the rest of us swoop in and take her by the ankles and before you know it she’s above our heads, standing, and we’re holding her by the feet, and while that happens she’s talking about the rush of love and we hear in the audience a gasp,” says Eugenia.

“You get to see feelings delivered in a different or heightened way. It gives the audience a visual response, which is quite different and exciting to see the physicality support the narrative so strongly. That’s a really thrilling part of the work.”

Playwright Bovell, who is also behind Lantana and The Secret River, has previously described the production as a wider story of economic transition from the boomer to the X and Y generations; as the characters of Fran and Bob, a retrenched worker from carmaker Mitsubishi, give their children every opportunity.

Yet while Things I know to be true explores heavier issues, there is a mix of light and dark, says Georgia.

“There’s a lot of humour and artistry in this play that elevates it to be something else,” she says.

“From my perspective, there is an immense depth of feeling mixed with the humour and physicality. It addresses some really big issues, but I don’t think it feels like a dark piece of theatre. It barrels through a range of experiences.”

the essentials

What: Things I know to be true
When: 8 -11 June
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
How much: Tickets start from $30
Web: canberratheatrecentre.com.au/show/thingsiknowtobetrue/

Photos by Shane Reid.


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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