- Created by: Rachel Robbo
- Created on: 08-06-17 11:57
- Friday 14th October 2016, Warwick Arts Centre
- Frantic Assembly (and State Theatre Company of South Australia) – ensemble/physicality/physical tension/gesture/body language/gait/pace/reaction
- Non-naturalistic, has elements of physical theatre and routines
- Purpose – to entertain, tell the story, reveal the characters’ secrets, uncover one by one. To create emotional responses, sympathy for characters. At times, to shock/surprise the audience.
- Deliberately artificial, tell the story
- Playwright - Andrew Bovell
- Pip Price - Natalie Casey
- Rosie Price - Kirsty Oswald
- Bob Price - Ewan Stewart
- Fran Price - Imogen Stubbs
- Frantic Assembly is an innovative British theatre company that tells stories by using physical theatre techniques, and whose style is an incredibly exciting fusion of text, music and movement.
- The most crucial thing about Frantic Assembly’s style is that the movement or dance moves do not just simply illustrate the words spoken by the performers, but rather show what is left unsaid.
- This is shown in Things I Know To Be True, as the way the Price family lift and support each other between scenes during transitions is a physical expression of what they fail to say.
- While they drive each other away with words, they hold onto one another with their bodies.
- Proscenium arch, audience is directly in front of stage, not around.
- Stage floor is black and reflects the shine of lighting. Along back of US is a wooden, unpainted wooden picket fence, connotes images of traditional nuclear suburban family.
- Hundreds of dimmed, sandy yellow old fashioned cylindrical light bulbs hung along the back and up the wall of the stage, like stars in a dream, creates a beautiful, non-naturalistic vis.
- When Rosie first comes home, fake browned leaves are thrown high, scattered over the ground. This is used as a transition from her monologue to coming home.
- Wooden, dark brown, rectangle frames are placed on the ground CSL and CSR, are later filled with gravel. Tiny fake circular bushes are placed down (no flowers yet).
- Aged wooden, squared based blue shed trucked in, placed UCL. Has slanted roof and creaking door. Paint is chipped, hints at what it looked like, suggests age and memories.
- Fake rose bushes are later added into the set, thin trunk leading up to nearly immaculate orb/globe shaped green foliage with white roses (purity/innocence/untainted/perfection?) that can be plucked by actors with ease to interact with during scenes.
- The scenery & set design initially appears deliberately rudimental.
How the Story was Clear
- Use of DIALOGUE and MONOLOGUE throughout.
- Narrating where they are & conditions: “Berlin. A winter coat. A travel bag. A red nose. And a broken heart. I’m standing on the platform at the train station. It’s cold. The train is late and my socks are wet.”
- Narrating in PRESENT tense - seems regretful of past decisions and uncertain of the future.
- Sixty-three, a retrenched auto factory worker.
- Kind, loving, slow, forgetful, fumbles.
- Passionate, furious, offended, heartbroken, destroyed.
- Thirty-four, an education department bureaucrat.
- Hurried, busy, constantly moving, conflicted, confused, wounded.
- Free, happy, independent, nervous, destroyed.
- Nineteen, who doesn’t know who she is or what she wants to be yet.
- Naïve, sweet, optimistic, innocent, adoring, ignored, pushed aside, excluded, confused, hurt, devastated.
1) Rosie Talks About Berlin
- During the second scene, Rosie (Kirsty Oswald) stands CS facing forward, and tells the audience about her heartbreak in Berlin.
- “But I can’t think of them much because if I do my chest will explode”.
- Throat closes up, tears brim at this/high pitch on stressed words/pained tone/quick pace/British accent (directors agreed play was so universal that even though it’s based in Australia the actors could use their own accents)/volume INCREASES on ‘explode’.
- Slightly slumped shoulders (defeat) knees bent/flat palm, rapidly taps chest over heart on cue “chest” as voice cracks, repeatedly pushes strands of hair from face before using flat, straight left palm to wipe mouth and cheeks.
- Body language shows defeat or weakness/sad expressions – eyebrows pulled together, tears stream over cheeks, quivering lower lip (childlike)/eye contact with audience is broken as she ducks head.
- “[…] and the really frightening thing is... It’s a very short list.” Emphasis on 'frightening'. High to low pitch on second line, slower pace than first. Punctuates last three words. Hands clasped one over the other in front of her stomach, elbows bent 90 degrees, shaking head very softly, eyes searching.
- AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Sympathy for Rosie’s distress and homesickness.
- PERSONAL RESPONSE: Pity for her and anger at the man who broke her heart.
2) Pip's Letter (Pt. 1)
- Natalie Casey, portraying the eldest sister Pip, engaged the audience during the scene where her mother read her letter from Vancouver.
- Pip sat at table (CSR) that had been trucked on earlier, and is facing offstage, fingers intertwined and facing forward as if imaging she’s speaking to her mother, very clinical and business-like.
- Fran stands behind her, holds letter in right hand facing audience, left hand supports left cheek. Very artificial.
- Pip's letter mentions a song Fran used to sing, Pip sings it live, stops at line “There’s music on-” Both on stage but no eye contact, distance. Fractured relationship, no connection.
- Fran moves as if in a trance, sits opposite her and slides back in her seat SYNCHRONOUS WITH PIP. Fran draws in the letter, but the two women still repel from one another (like MAGNETS – too similar)
- Wash of steel/cold blue lighting. When she starts talking about her affair, lighting turns white, then on “months of thrilling emails” golden yellow lighting on Pip (mother remains blue), all turns back to blue wash when Pip mentions her ‘good’ husband.
- AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Sympathy for their lack of connection and fractured relationship.
- PERSONAL RESPONSE: Sadness as it is unlikely they will ever form a real connection.
2) Pip's Letter (Pt. 2)
- During the same scene, after the dramatic revelation that Pip is having an affair, Natalie Casey lets her posture relax, sits back with open body language as if relieved from carrying a secret for too long. Left hand in coat pocket, as if clutching a phone and waiting for a message.
- Pulls phone out and places in front of her on the table hurriedly. Excited.
- Pace increases, suggests excitement and voice grows rougher as if unrestrained.
- Pip: “So now, I’m waiting for his call. My lover.” Emphasis on ‘my’, drawn out, breathy, laughs joyfully afterwards, unrestrained. Large, childish grin, wide eyes.
- “to leave […] his safe home… To come to me.” On ‘leave’, places left hand lightly curled against temple, elbow resting on table now and leans forward further and further (staccato, stylized), as if staring at a perfect person.
- Knows inevitably that he won’t choose her, slowly sinks into her self-deprecating/self-loathing of mistake. Nearly chokes/whimpers on ‘safe’. Facial: smiles, derisively. Self-mocking. Slows down throughout list, almost hopeful on ‘me’ but voice cracks.
- AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Happy that she's breaking free from her trapped state, but angry/annoyed that she doesn't care about destroying another man's marriage & her own.
- PERSONAL RESPONSE: Pride that Pip is doing something for herself, but dislike for her selfish response to the situation and blindness to her self destructive attitude.
3) Bob's Breakdown
- Each child stood behind a rose bush other than Rosie, who stood arms hung at her sides DSR looking to Bob hopelessly. Chorus: “Dad?” in slow, broken voices, all quiet and in need of their father to make it okay. No lighting on children.
- Bob (Stewart) lets out a stifled sob, looks down at the bottom button of his shirt, hands both move to it, toying with it between fingers and thumbs. Pulls blue popper shirt open and off, sobbing quietly, body shaking softly and refusing to look up away from the ground.
- Turns to his right, lifting shirt over his head, throws shirt to the ground. Finally looks up at the sky, tears in eyes, breathing becomes heavier and heavy, as if he’s about to implode.
- Crying had slowly grown louder, then he began to wail and scream, bending double, knees bent, went from bush to bush, easily tearing them from the ground even though they had carefully been constructed throughout the play. Threw them across the stage. CSL -> CSR.
- DELIBERATELY ARTIFICIAL. "There was merit in Bob finding that everything around him was a lie, non-naturalistic destruction of the flowers. The lighting state opens up showing the whole stage and the fake roses. The only real thing is the breaking of Bob’s heart."
- Face contorted with grief, streaming tears from clenched eyes.
3) Bob's Breakdown
- AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Feels sympathy for him and his loss. Engaging because of emotion drawn out from seeing character in pain, and almost dismay at seeing him destroy the perfectly built up set.
- PERSONAL RESPONSE: I found this truly moving as he only found what truly mattered when it was taken away from him.
Rough Intro - Performer Elements
On Friday the 14th of October, 2016, I went to the Warwick Arts Centre to see Frantic Assembly's non-naturalistic ensemble piece: "Things I Know To Be True".
This deliberately artificial production was written by Andrew Bovell, and followed the lives of the Price family, with Kirsty Oswald portraying the youngest sibling, Rosie Price, Natalie Casey as the oldest sister, Pip Price, and Ewan Stewart as the father, Bob Price, amongst others.
Though the play was originally developed in Australia about an Australian family, actors kept their British accents as the directors agreed that the play and it’s themes were so universal, that even though it’s based in a different country, the actors could use their own accents.
The performers used their physical and vocal skills in a variety of ways to draw sympathy from the audience, whilst keeping in the style of Frantic Assembly where the physical aspect voices everything the characters leave unsaid.
This was most commonly demonstrated through the scene transitions as the Price family would lift and support each other, showing effectively that whilst they drive each other away with their words, their bodies hold onto one another.