Can we ever be entirely truthful? Can we convincingly mask lies as the truth? Does the truth even matter? TRUTHMACHINE is a 20-minute immersive experience that asks you to consider these questions as either an object or observer of an intimate, intense and interesting interrogation.
A small audience of 10 are led into a darkened room by the tech operator, lit only by glowing monitors on tables, and instructed to sit in front of one and don the headphones attached. The history of the concept of truth is recounted, and the process of answering questions via a switch on the monitor or the microphones on the tables is taught through a practice round. And then so starts the social experiment in which one audience member is randomly selected to be strapped with real biometric sensors (aka lie detecting equipment), and closely questioned by an interrogator about deeply personal topics, from sex and love, to conceit and insecurities. The remainder of the audience are tasked with observing the person responding to the questions and their sensory data, and deciding at intervals whether they are telling the truth or are lying. Depending on your role in the experiment, you receive different information and instructions through your headphones, which leads to some pretty intriguing outcomes. For example, the show’s purpose is to examine if and how people can lie without being detected, and the lone responder is encouraged to lie at least once.
TRUTHMACHINE is extremely well produced by the artist collective of Counterpilot. It was a truly atmospheric experience, using lighting, sound effects, music and voices in a really effective way to create mood and tension. The technology and software that drives the interactive and innovative nature of the show were evidently skilfully designed, developed and delivered. The performance by the interrogator was cool, calm, and well conceptualised, really adding to the experience.
On the night of this review, my partner and I were the only audience members, and I was selected to be interrogated. As I’m generally an open person and my partner knows everything there is to know about me, I found the experience quite easy and as a result had quite low readings on a biometric level; however, I acknowledge that had another 8 random strangers been in the room, it may not have been as easy for me, and had I been someone more reserved, prudish, or secretive, it would’ve been extremely difficult…but that’s entirely the point. I believe that with a full house and with my far-too-honest ass parked in the general group rather than the hot seat, I would’ve seen the show at its uncomfortable best, but unfortunately I think (by no one’s fault) I missed that opportunity. Nonetheless, TRUTHMACHINE was and is a truly engaging, enthralling experience that patrons of participatory theatre, and those looking for a quick and cheap show, would walk away from both pleased and at unease.
Rating: 4/5 stars
TRUTHMACHINE has now concluded its season at the Adelaide Fringe 2019. For further information on the company behind it, Counterpilot, click here.
Thumbnail image via Adelaide Fringe website.