Thursday, August 21, 2014


The most remarkable thing about Chris Thorpe's Confirmation is that I agreed with it almost entirely.

There is, indeed, a problem of confirmation bias. People do, indeed, seek things which confirm their pre-existing beliefs. There are, indeed, subjectivity difficulties involved in seeking out other, opposing perspectives, in attempting to see through the eyes of another.

Yes, yes, yes, yes...

My chief concern here is, somewhat ironically, whether this is a play that will change anyone's mind. You either walk into the theatre with some reasonable understanding of social critique, and therefore almost all of Thorpe's text will drip with familiar crisis, or you can not, and it will seem totally bogus.

I'm most interested in the other side of that argument - which I don't represent. What is it like to walk into that room, from your 9-5 job where you support unquestioningly an entire system of beliefs that you have supported unquestioningly, unconsciously, for your entire life, into this tirade of problems of xenophobia, white supremacy, and various distancing mechanisms. Do you walk out changed?

This seems like the question on which Confirmation lives or dies. The transformative potential here is undoubtedly the poetry - there is an element of poetry-slam about the performance, which lurches unexpectedly between interaction, storytelling, and abstraction. This blurring of fact and fiction serves to collapse distinctions between realities - something which is then fully explored when the play transitions into a 'second act' - and hones in on the story of Thorpe's encounters with a white supremacist, which have disturbed his own reality. If you need an example of where this poetry is effective, keep 'an eye out' for the moment in which Thorpe exchanges body parts with the supremecist - the structure of this piece of writing, and the way in which it unites its narrative threads of violence and subjectivity, achieves some kind of divine elevation.

My hesitation (and to be honest, my concern) is that, by its own criteria, the play fails at its central task of transformation. But I want to be very clear about this - if it fails, it fails at something good. A lot of theatre fails at something bad, or perhaps even worse, succeeds at something bad. Thorpe is working in an area that is important not least because theatre itself, oh so much of it today, and totally evident at this festival of drunk shakespeares and trivial bullshit, is involved in this terrifyingly agreeable society in which positivity, participation, enthusiasm are rewarded tenfold by everyone from audiences to critics to voters to social life.

As various future crises reveal themselves, and people's anxieties deepen, this problem of conformation bias will get worse. It's not popular to critique. It's not popular to criticise, and to criticise well. It's not popular to stop and to think. We have a word called 'h8r' for this now. If you want to be one of those people who attempts to understand the world, you can look forward to a life of exclusion.

Confirmation is an honest attempt to understand the 'other' - an impossible task, and one that I resoundingly support.

by Chris Thorpe
Developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin

at King's Hall, Edinburgh
until August 23rd

PREVIEWS 31 JUL & 2 AUG, 16:35
4-5, 6-9, 11-16, 18-23 AUG, 16:35

Written by Chris Thorpe
Developed with and Directed by Rachel Chavkin - See more at:

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