Katie Bonna: ‘I rewrote my show after Trump was elected’
After the West End transfer of her play Dirty Great Love Story in January, Katie Bonna begins her one-woman show All the Things I Lied About at Soho Theatre in April. She talks to Ella Wills about everyday lies and psychological manipulation in a post-truth era…
Have you adapted All the Things I Lied About since Edinburgh?
The world has changed since last August. Before Donald Trump was elected, I spoke about how he lied in his campaign. There was a feeling of mockery and “isn’t it ridiculous” about that conversation. Now Trump’s been elected, the section is more substantial and talks about the way he engages with us now.
What are the challenges of writing autobiographically?
I’m led by an emotional understanding of the world and that’s how I lean in my writing as well. This is definitely the most personal thing I’ve written. Before we went to Edinburgh, I burst out crying in the rehearsal room. It hit me that I was really talking about my mum and dad. I felt responsible for the way I told the story. I always interrogate myself when I use personal stories: is it respectful? Am I clearly conveying that it’s from my point of view? With this story it’s difficult because I don’t speak to my father any more and it’s predominantly about him, so it raised bigger questions for me.
What is the new play you are writing about?
It’s about the gap between how feminist we believe we are compared with how feminist we are in terms of how we actually behave. So the play’s about the level of conditioning that we have in our bones as women: it’s difficult to escape from, and often goes totally unnoticed. It’s inspired by the Greek chorus but will be punctuated by songs, which are feminist anthems. There’s going to be glitter and the odd fishnet.
Is it important to you to address gender equality?
It’s important to arrive at some form of activism through the work I make. The climate of today’s society is such that we should be thinking in terms of activism as much as we can. My new show is helping me address a problem that feels like a cage in my own life:
I need to find a way, if not to unlock it, to pick the lock.
Do you prefer writing to performing?
I’m an actor first and foremost. I started writing because Richard Marsh (co-writer of Dirty Great Love Story) was very persuasive. I was not convinced I would be any good at it. When I was a teenager, I thought: “You’re going to be an actor and if you don’t do that you’ve failed.” So not focusing on acting for a while made me feel like I had failed. It took me a while to realise how much potential there was in creating my own work. Writing All the Things I Lied About was very liberating and, having written it, I feel I am now a writer-performer.
CV: Katie Bonna
Training: Guildford School of Acting (graduated 2005)
First professional role: Helen of Troy in Trojan Women with Actors of Dionysus
Agent: United Agents
All the Things I Lied About runs at London’s Soho Theatre until May 6