My breath was shaky and shallow, I was acutely aware of my heartbeat quickening, I surreptitiously wiped my clammy palms on my skirt – and I wasn’t even the one hooked up to the polygraph machine!
TRUTHMACHINE is part-science experiment, part-interactive theatre and – for me – a wholly unsettling experience.
It melds elements of Brisbane Festival’s 2018 immersive hit Séance with the voting influence of 2017’s Terror.
I’m seated at long, dark table with a dozen other people: headphones on, microphone at the ready, fingers hovering nervously over a small switch box.
An interrogator asks for our consent then singles us out, seemingly at random, to ask questions ranging from “What is your name?” to “Are you happy with your appearance?”
Warm-up over, one audience member – my friend’s boyfriend – was selected and attached to biometric sensors. Not only was the subject peppered with the sort of intimate questions that drew raised eyebrows, embarrassed chuckles and even gasps but those of us at the table were called on to judge his answers and weigh up his polygraph results.
There is a sense of voyeurism and intrusion to TRUTHMACHINE that soon segues into suspicion.
I squirmed in empathy for the poor guy but as the interrogation continued, I began to question his answers. Did he feel compelled to tell the truth or was he messing with us? Was everyone at the table hearing the same thing through their headphones?
Running a little over 20 minutes, TRUTHMACHINE is an intense experience best shared with either your closest friends or complete strangers you’ll never see again.
There’s no retreating from what you may discover.