Katie Bonna’s ‘All The Things I Lied About’ at the Bike Shed Theatre was an honest, thought-provoking piece in the style of a TED talks. Bonna delivered to her audience her take on the impact of everyday lies, forcing us to face the reality of our post-truth society. On arrival, Bonna charmed the audience with a brief introduction explaining the key components of a Ted Talk; the framing device she would be using for her piece. During her introduction, she joked about trying fudge at a local store and familiarised herself with the audience which gave the overall performance an air of intimacy. It was personal, humorous, and felt natural. The introduction engaged the audience right from the start, breaking the fourth wall through her insistence that the audience should take an active part in her performance.
A striking aspect of the piece was its personal nature. Bonna drew upon her own experiences of lying to unveil her hypothesis that everyday lies are what have lead us to the likes of Brexit and Donald Trump. She tells the painful story of her dad’s infidelity and deceit which brought her mother to a breaking point and breaks down the concept of ‘gas lighting’, the act of psychologically manipulating someone to doubt their own sanity, a technique adopted by her father when masking his infidelity. Yet, despite presenting an experience that was deeply heart-breaking for her, Bonna courageously ploughed through with the use of humour. She intertwined the heart-breaking with the hilarious, exemplified through her mention of making her little sister drink her urine. Her one-woman show had the audience laughing in relation to themes we all knew too well in our own lives.
Bonna’s solo performance was strong as she easily commanded the attention of the audience and did so with a stripped-down set. Accompanying her on stage was an Ikea rug and simple props such as babushka dolls which she used to visually represent how we as individuals are masked with layers of lies and deceptions. The lights and music helped to theatrically enforce her Ted Talk theme and added to the comedic atmosphere, painting Bonna as a show woman. The use of props was fun and inclusive as she divided the audience up to play some sort of pantomime game. In our teams, we were given roles that we were to perform once our trigger words were mentioned. This added an amusing dynamic to the piece as we squirted her with water pistols and threw soft play balls at her imitation of her ‘half Alan Partridge, half Jeremy Clarkson’ father.
However, despite all the fun and games, a pivotal moment of the piece was Bonna herself revealing that she too is a liar struggling to face reality. Her raw honesty was inspiring. She captured the audience through the telling of her own struggle with deception. After taking us on a comical journey she swiftly switches the whole atmosphere from fun to serious. At this point, Bonna became completely vulnerable to the audience. The mood was almost uncomfortable to watch as we saw the vibrant performer, who had us laughing minutes ago, break down and be truly honest with her audience. She revealed her deepest insecurities and the painful truth that her Ted talk performance was a façade, allowing her to tell the story of her fear of being just like her father, without judgement. Just like her father, she, too, had lied in her relationships and highlighted the fact that in today’s post-truth society we are all afraid of being truly honest as it places us in compromising positions where we are open to judgment. If the world judges the person we pretend to be, they aren’t judging the real us.
The piece highlighted society’s need for approval and our human instinct to lie. Bonna made light of the everyday lies we so often tell, such as about how healthily we eat or how often we work out. Yet, underneath all the jokes, what she really revealed is our individual need of approval. She proved our need for lies and deception, as the truth is almost too much to face. Bonna suggested that we all ask for honesty but ignorance truly is bliss.
‘All The Things I Lied About’ is a performance that certainly deserves a watch. Bonna has skilfully entangled her own experiences with themes relevant to our current society. She demonstrates that despite the detrimental effects of lying, it is a part of our human nature. Hence, instead of trying to pretend we are not all liars, how about we embrace it and see the humour in our deceptions?
– by Sophinne Aikins-Sancho
*Images courtesy of The Bike Shed & The Other Richard