Are We Living in a Post-Truth Society?
Katie Bonna's All The Things I Lied About
Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Edinburgh
Why do we all strive for absolute truth, and like to think of ourselves as ‘honest’ people? Would the world really be a better place if we were all honest? This is what Katie Bonna covers in her TED talk. Except TED haven’t asked her to do one because you have to be ‘an expert or something’ and she isn’t… is she?
The Fringe is full of people telling their own real-life stories, but very few writers give the personal a universal resonance the way Bonna does. The central story of the infidelities that broke her family apart is compelling and her own disclosures are disarmingly honest. It is her deconstruction of our obsession with truth and the way she applies that to issues in the public sphere, such as the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Brexit campaigning, that really makes this piece stand out. Bonna asks if we are now living in a “post-truth society”, and though the idea sounds horrific, might it be true? Alongside the exposing monologue performance in the round, the storytelling is jazzed up with a fun and inventive demonstration of how dissonance and confirmation bias work, making use of the audience and a range of props to show behaviour in the brain.
All The Things I Lied About is an expertly structured piece of writing, the performance engaging and self-assured and the content eye-opening. Given the extent to which dishonesty has affected Bonna personally, it is surprising yet pleasing to see her critical engagement with the subject win out over the emotional. She ends by acknowledging that total honesty is impossible, that lies are as essential to us as breathing. Although that doesn’t mean commitment isn’t possible. By re-jigging the distinction from lie/truth to instead considering the effects of our behaviour, Bonna shows us that it isn’t total honesty we need but empathy and perhaps a touch of Bonna’s own bravery.