Review: Things I Know to be True at Ilkley Playhouse (February 13-17, 2024)

IT would be hard to imagine a play with themes more current than these. And yet, if it had been performed fifty years ago – or when it is performed in fifty years time – the emotions and experiences in it will be no less relatable.

Andrew Bovell’s beautiful play, Thing I Know to be True, was first performed by Frantic Assembly eight years ago and through its six characters – each one central to the story – tales of family life are told in all their complexities. This is the story of a normal family, two parents Bob and Fran and their four children, Pip, Ben, Mark and Rosie.

Yvette Huddlestone and Piers Lane play the care-worn parents. They have done their best, sometimes getting it right and at other times, less so. But that is real and we all know it, whether we look at it from the perspective of a parent or a child. And of course, the children don’t always recognise that they have done their best and so hold them to account and in many respects they are right to. In other words, this is a family at its best and its worst.

It does seem that these parents, coming from a different generation as parents inevitably do, struggle to understand some of the decisions of their offspring - their relationships, their sexuality, their jobs, their travel plans and their own children. Fran and Bob have strong beliefs in what they have done in the past, what they would do and what the right way to proceed is in all of their children’s circumstances: they wouldn’t buy a brand new car, raise their children like that, have no work plans and they don’t resist dishing out their opinions as free advice. As their elder son Ben comments: ‘Coming here is like getting a lesson on how to be a better person’, and it’s understandably wearing.

Patrick Hebbert plays the high earning Ben, irritable and successful; Helena Helm is the strong-minded Pip, determined to plough her own furrow – in much the same way as her mother did – causing quite a clash of very similar personalities. Becky Burrows is baby of the family, Rosie, not yet sure of her path whilst Madeline Ameigh is Mark who has perhaps the greatest challenges to face.

This is super writing and Damien O’keeffe’s directing has made it hugely compelling. No-one seeing this powerful piece will be able to say that they have never encountered issues similar to this family, albeit perhaps not to the same degrees.

It runs in the Wildman Studio theatre until Saturday 17th February. Tickets can be booked on line at or by calling 01943 609539.