Yasmine Zong is moved by Collingwood Woodplayers’ Michaelmas show, Things I Know to be True.

Collingwood College Woodplayers’ Michaelmas play, Things I Know To Be True by Andrew Bovell, is an intimate portrayal of the mechanism of a family, showing the love and hatred, support and constraint, expectations and frustrations involved in interacting with the people who are supposedly closest to you in the whole world – your family. Through the cast’s marvellous acting and body movements, and through the subtle use of set, lights and music, the Woodplayers’ production was touching and realistic, sometimes to the point of painful, and considering this is the first theatre production most of the cast members ever joined themselves in, the performance they presented was truly spectacular.

It’s difficult to write an objective and detached review of Things I Know To Be True. Its plot and the dynamics between characters are simply too close to experiences and problems every one faces in their life, it’s difficult not to be reminded of one’s own family and the emotional packages that comes with it, as a result, it’s too easy to let one’s own emotions influence one’s view of the play and the actors’ performance. Several members of the audience sobbed during the play, and your reviewer had found her own eyes being filled with tears at certain points of the play. On the other hand, these reactions reflected how well the actors brought out the power of the script, and how convincingly they portrayed individual characters and their interactions.

The portrayals were so strong that there is little point in isolating each character to evaluate individual performances, because each member of the cast and their character was an integral part of the story, the actions of every character depended on the rest and vice versa, so that one could only see them as an organic and dynamic whole. With that said, Jemima Abate’s interpretation of Rosie still deserves some special praise, at the same time perplexed and unsure of herself, but also full of enthusiasm, understanding and love, her Rosie was simply so lovable and relatable as we watched her gradually found out the truth about her family and herself. Emily Lea’s portrayal of Fran and May Mills’ portrayal of Pip, on the other hand, might be improved further if they could show their complexity, the multi-façade of their personalities even more, highlighting the strongminded and stoic side together with the vulnerable and doubting side of their characters. But in general, the performance was already so moving that one could hardly ask for more.

While naturalistic in its overall tone, the non-natural bodily movements in the play greatly highlighted the tension between characters, as if giving physical expressions to feelings that were left unsaid. The recurring scene of the 6 members of the family standing in a human chain, holding each other while leaning away from them, was particularly memorable. The music in the background flew gently and seemed to brought out the tenderness inside both the character and the audience members. The lights on the stage changed with the emotional tone of the scene, alternated between melancholic blue, turbulent red and the bright, warm glow of sunshine. On the stage the setting was simple – a piece of railing, a small tree, two small flowerbed of roses, but together with the lights and sound they produced a sense of wholeness, or, as Pip said in the play, ‘This garden was my world’, and the setting did create a small but complete universe of its own.

The size of the audience on the first night was hardly doing justice to the play – Collingwood Woodplayers’ Things I Know To Be True is a moving story of family and growing up, the cast as well as the stage crew had successfully brought out all the emotions and feelings it contained which resonate strongly with everyone and their own experience with family members, and it deserves to be seen by more people.

Things I Know to be True will be playing at the Mark Hillery Arts Centre, Collingwood College, on 22nd and 23rd November.