Powerful exploration of confirmation bias at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
Chris Thorpe's enthusiasm for battling demons has led him to this: sweating, growling, shouting, whipping his microphone lead around the stage like a tormented rock god, frustrated and angry, desperate to escape his own point of view but unwilling to accept the alternative. In order to test 'confirmation bias' – the mind's ability to incorporate new information into an existing model of the world – he has sought out those who are least like him. And now, he is friends with a Nazi.
Thorpe doesn’t follow the rigid structure of a typical play. Directed by Rachel Chavkin from American devising masters the TEAM, he presents a monologue which describes his research into his own mind and experience. Billed as engagement with a right-wing extremist – one who is, Thorpe admits, fun and intelligent – it follows the performer’s attempts to challenge his own liberal beliefs, raging at both his failure and the uncomfortable reality that defines the extremist.
It is a stunning performance: Thorpe embodies the Nazi. It is a distinctively macho display, full of vigour and frighteningly brutal. Thorpe rejects extremist politics – as the Nazi tells him he has been conditioned to – but reaches towards an extreme theatricality that rages as hard as the Minor Threat hardcore number that is used to illustrate the confusion of racial identity.
Although the staging in the round and Thorpe's pacing recalls a shamanic ritual, his experiment in mind expansion is doomed to failure: rather than understand his opposite, he becomes a raging liberal, disturbed at the collapse of certainties but determined to hold his position. Yet by lacking a conclusion, Confirmation is all the more powerful, encouraging the dialogue between relativity and truth to leap free of the performance and to challenge the audience.
Northern Stage at King's Hall, until 23 Aug (not 10, 17), 4.35pm, £14 (£11)