revew: Chris Thorpe – Confirmation
by Chris Thorpe/
dir Rachel Chavkin/
<i> the first time i had </i> Confirmation <i> ruined for me was during last year's fringe. i wasn't at the fringe last year but i heard about the show several times from people who were. as it was i knew a good few things about the show before i read it. it was about confirmation bias / it was by Chris Thorpe / it was fantastic / people walked out / people got angry / people got impressed / i was told i </i> needed <i> to see it/read it. </i>
My experience of Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation has felt like some sort of prophecy-fulfillment. The show is about inbuilt biases, preconceived ways of viewing the world that colour our understanding of everything we encounter. Ever since first hearing about the show last August, I’ve built up my bias around the show. It’s travelled in different directions at times, but all of it has merged, together with finally seeing the show, into a single experience.
<i> the second time i had </i> Confirmation <i> ruined for me was when i read the script for myself. it didn't help that i'd been told so much about how brilliant it was, but i just didn't go for it. i think at the time i compared it to an extended Guardian article. maybe i read a separation between audience and performer into it that wasn't there. </i>
These cumulative filters that have changed my view of Confirmation have steadily, totally stripped the primacy of the liveness, and the newness that the piece relies on in performance. This show relies on the assumption of the audience having their own assumptions. I mean, that’s how the show approaches its audience – it’s the premise. It relies to a degree on this subject being new, unexplored territory, for its audience. This means that any prior knowledge of the show fundamentally alters it, as if it were a psychological experiment. Maybe in some ways it is.
<i> the third time i had </i> Confirmation <i> ruined for me was when it took three of my friends (who had all seen the show) to convince me it was a good piece. all three of them essentially told me the same things to justify it as a solid piece of theatre, but for some reason it wasn't until the third time that it worked. i accepted that the strength of the show rested for a large part on the strength of Chris Thorpe's performance. </i>
By the time I finally saw Confirmation I’d been aware of it both as a piece of writing and a piece of theatre for so long that I was convinced I’d enjoy it.
Feeling like a case study for the piece, I went to Confirmation expecting a tight, powerful performance of a script that openly confronts its audience.
And I saw exactly that.
The Point-Of-All-This I seem to have arrived at is that, for me, the theatrical event of Confirmation had happened long before I saw the performance at the Royal Exchange. In the time leading up to me seeing the show, I became the worst audience member possible for that show. I went to see it to confirm my bias and I came away with my bias confirmed. I wasn’t challenged, I wasn’t upset, I was vindicated. For me-as-audience-member, it had ceased to be theatre because it was totally stripped of any power to affect me.
Obviously this is all incredibly ironic, isn’t it?
Then again, this is how I experience all theatre, to an extent. I don’t mean I’m unaffected by anything, but that the extent to which I’m affected depends a lot on what expectations I bring along to my seat in the audience. In this way, I suppose it’s impossible to be totally oblivious and unbiased about what you’re about to see. It just so happens that this particular show’s gambit points this out more than others.
It’s an interesting idea, that Confirmation relies on a specific kind of ignorance from its audience. I robbed myself of that ignorance by reading the show first, but from speaking to other people from the audience, those that already had a working knowledge of confirmation bias seem to have had the impact lessened as a result, too. But, of course, this show isn’t really aimed at People With A Working Knowledge Of Confirmation Bias – more at those without. And dammit Chris Thorpe puts in a fantastic performance and throughout the show the audience are all entirely his.
I agree with the friends that convinced me this was a good show. I agree the script makes a huge deal less sense out of the performance context. I agree that Chris Thorpe is an incredible performer.
And of course I’m going to tell you this was a great show, because that’s what I decided to begin with.