Tim Honnef opens his show, The Things I Never Told You, by explaining that he has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe several times before, occasionally under the moniker Jonas Muller, and that he has often resorted to deceiving his audience. Not this time. This year, Honnef swears to tell us the whole truth and nothing but it, although it’ll be a promise he’ll break on multiple occasions. Exactly how many whoppers he’ll let slip during its duration is anyone’s guess, as Honnef delights in playing with the borders between fact and fiction over the course of his hour-long monologue.
The starting premise of the show is that last year, he had to cancel his Fringe run for medical reasons – this part of the story seems to check out. Honnef spends the rest of the hour taking us along on the prologue, beginning, middle and end of the reasons why he cut his 2018 performance short and what has befallen him in the intervening year. As well as coping with his illness and returning to something semblance health, he apparently received a mysterious box of cassette tapes, videos and books from a recently deceased neighbour with whom he had shared many smiles and waves but no words.
In between each segmented stage of the show, Honnef checks in with the audience to see whether they are still taking his word as gospel, then admitting that he couldn’t avoid letting a few porkies slip out. As well as embracing the role of the unreliable narrator with gusto – exploring the lines between reality and imagination – Honnef also investigates the reliability of memory, the fragility of the human mind and other existential concerns in a surreal manner that is reminiscent of writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Paul Auster.
It’s intriguing and provocative, as well as being slightly infuriating. Yet Honnef’s genial nature means that even if he is a compulsive liar – or, worse, completely off his rocker – he still comes across an altruistic sort at heart. Backed by this likeability, Honnef’s shaggy dog stories are a pleasant diversion that can be interpreted as nothing more than that, or a touching insight into mental illness and depression, or a metaphysical examination of the nature of human perception. Whatever way you choose to view them, there’s plenty of food for thought in the things he has told us, never mind the ones he never did.