Lying seems to be getting more and more fashionable. Over the past few months, political commentators have begun to talk of the dawn of a ‘post-truth’ society — a society where honesty is rewarded less and less. But, Katie Bonna asks in her timely one-woman show, has there been as much of a change as we think?
By turns poignant and funny, courageous and bracing. And that’s no lie.
Think back to the last time you lied. If you’re anything like me (or Bonna, or the average person) that’s pretty damn recent — probably today. Every day, most of us lie near-constantly, flattering loved ones, saying we’ve got no change, excusing ourselves from interminable conversations with suddenly-remembered errands to run. A set of babushka dolls serve as a visual metaphor for the way in which, as we grow up, we become ever more ambitious and accomplished in our dissimulation. Is it possible, then, that all this falsehood is not symptomatic of some sinister “dark heart of deceit” taking hold of our society, but perfectly natural?
Bonna’s talk touches on issues political and societal, returning there intermittently throughout the night. She doesn’t go anywhere too profound with these topics, but that’s no deal breaker: the core of her narrative is instead deeply personal. With thrilling candour, she talks about her parents’ relationship, about domestic deceit and gaslighting (a form of psychological abuse where the victim is tricked into doubting their own sanity); and about the lies we tell ourselves, to feel fully at ease with the way we treat others. And she’s no less frank when it comes to herself, recounting her repeated infidelities, and the pain she’s caused again and again by lying.
There are moments when the show lies: it pretends to be less prepared, more visceral, than it really is, with Bonna pausing when apparently too overcome with emotion to stick to the script. These moments work reasonably well, but felt a bit too stagey for a show that — ironically enough, given the subject matter — depends a great deal on the audience’s belief in Bonna’s onstage authenticity and honesty.
Nevertheless, it’s potent stuff: a fascinating, moving production. Part imitation-TED talk (complete with a head mic, red circle, and a bright-eyed desire to change the world), part compellingly honest confessional storytelling, All the Things I Lied About is by turns poignant and funny, courageous and bracing. And that’s no lie.