Arts Review: Confirmation

Confirmation

Dir. Rachel Chavkin, The Arches, 20th April 2015

Presented as part of BEHAVIOUR15…

A solo play written and performed by Chris Thorpe, Confirmation is an intense psychological study of the way we subconsciously use the world around us to confirm and reinforce our own beliefs.

This is theatre stripped down to its most raw elements, and there couldn’t be a more suitable approach for tackling one of the most insidious and urgent political issues at large today: the fear of radicalisation.

Using nothing but a chair, a microphone, and some flash cards, Thorpe delivers a powerful, hard hitting performance in which he attempts to dissect the cognitive processes at work behind his own “white liberal” view of the world in order to better understand why we hold the convictions we do.

It is both funny and deeply unsettling, largely due to the highly personal nature of Thorpe’s engagement with the subject. He describes in detail his “research”, which includes going to BNP meetings and conducting a series of in-depth interviews with “Glen”, a right-wing fanatic with a surprisingly human face. These interviews are recreated onstage, alongside a running commentary that details the obsessive process of interpretation, distortion and rationalisation at work in dialogue with one’s ideological opposite, and the destructive effects that this can have.

It’s a difficult subject to take on, but Thorpe’s energy as a performer makes it utterly riveting. He has an uncanny skill in traversing the distance between opposing narrative perspectives in a way that is never clear-cut and never comfortable.  In addition, he makes the audience play an active role that deliberately breaks down any kind of comfort zone we try to hide behind – he might suddenly switch from shouting at the room to whispering to one person, he might give the audience lines to read out, he might thrust sheets of song lyrics in to our hands for us to analyse – but we never know what he’s going to do next.

Confirmation isn’t egotistical; it doesn’t patronize and it doesn’t moralize. Instead, there’s a sense of humility at its core, and, despite the very real terror of self-doubt that it evokes, there’s also a paradoxical comfort to be taken in the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all just as confused as each other.

[Cat Acheson – @cat_acheson]

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