There Has Possibly Been an Incident by Chris Thorpe was a critically acclaimed success at the Fringe in 2013. Thorpe returns to Northern Stages this year with his solo show, Confirmation. Delving deeper into some of the same issues as his 2013 hit, Confirmation looks at political conviction, extremism and motivation from a much more personal perspective.

Confirmation is Chris Thorpe at his best: thought-provoking, intelligent and thoroughly absorbing.

The focus of this production is ‘confirmation bias’ – a phenomenon in psychology whereby our brains tend to favour and over-emphasise information that confirms our already held beliefs. Thorpe, a liberal, sets out to challenge his own biases by having an ‘honourable dialogue’ with someone from the opposite side of the political spectrum to himself. Thorpe actively looks for someone who ‘might agree with Anders Breivik.’ He eventually finds ‘Glen’, a white supremacist and National Socialist. The production charts Thorpe and Glen’s conversations, both real and imagined.

Thorpe is a confident performer who easily holds his audience’s attention during the 90-minute production. He involves audience members in science experiments and in reading out dialogue, ensuring they are engaged and concentrating on every aspect of this beautifully written and complex piece. Director Rachel Chavkin has cleverly blocked Confirmation in the round, on a bare stage, save for a chair and a microphone, allowing Thorpe literally “nowhere to hide” during his confessional.

Despite the extremist views the production presents, the most chilling aspect of Confirmation is that it does not allow for easy answers. Glen is no idiot cartoon villain that can be simply dismissed by the (we presume) mainly liberal audience, but nor is his complexity of character an effective balm for the extremist ideas that he espouses. Thorpe is not interested in a simple and comforting display of understanding across the political divide, but in showing what the act of understanding costs each side. The harder Thorpe tries to understand Glen, and see the world through another’s eyes, the more he has to abandon his own opinions and beliefs. It was Thorpe’s final, extreme effort to ‘understand’ Glen’s opinions that had me squirming in my seat and effectively butting heads with my own deeply held, and in many ways completely unfounded, ideas.

Confirmation is Chris Thorpe at his best: thought-provoking, intelligent and thoroughly absorbing.

Reviews by Jenny Williams

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The Blurb

If you pinned me against a wall, I’d admit to being a liberal. And pinning me against a wall is exactly what I’d expect from someone like you. Confirmation is about gulfs we can’t talk across and the way we choose to see only the evidence that proves we’re right. Working with research into the phenomenon of confirmation bias, Confirmation is an attempt to have an honourable dialogue with political extremism. Created by multiple Fringe First winners Chris Thorpe and Rachel Chavkin, and presented by Warwick Arts Centre and China Plate. Commissioned by Northern Stage and Battersea Arts Centre.