FringeReview Scotland 2015
Chris Thorpe brings to us an investigation into the phenomenon of confirmation bias. He, alone, may not need to be pinned to the wall to confirm his liberal bias but it would be difficult to nail him down long enough to pin anything on him as he uses the entire stage to introduce us to a man he met and interviewed over time who was less than liberal. Using direct speech and stand up story telling as well as intimate one on one conversations with members of the audience he challenges us to be liberally sprinkled with understanding whilst showing how it is difficult to love all of the people all of the time.
Chris Thorpe is equally scary and enthralling. His script takes us from an uncomfortable place in terms of a belief system, introduces a scientific experiment with the audience that has been in vogue since the sixties, then introduces us to the idea that racism may challenge our belief system and then, having asked an eminent academic if he could test his theory – to be told that he was using that theory in error – proceeded with his investigation into the Far Right – ignoring specific advice not to. The conclusion that he reached was that he was both liberal and human though without having these results writ large we were left to ruminate and cogitate on a fairly indigestible meal of it.
The script is always edgy and hammering onwards. There are shades of dark and light which Thorpe manages to weave for us with great skill but for me that relentlessness lost some of the subtlety along the way. And yet that subtlety search may be my confirmation bias looking for something to criticise in a performance piece that asks us to accept a Nazi might be a decent human being.
Thorpe’s delivery is manic and measured with a very good understanding of how to play to a crowd in the round. At times he took to the microphone and at others used it to create an intimacy as he sat facing one member of the audience reading his questions out from cue cards. He used the entire space, used height, standing and sitting and made us all part of his theory as conspirators. It was highly effective.
This was well directed in what is a very difficult piece to direct and/or maintain a rhythm within. The movement across the stage fitted well with the main thrust of the message.
The set may have just been a chair but at times the nature of the content of the show and the obvious aggression to which it leads meant the chair almost became a weapon. The lighting was very subtle and changed to suit the area or the mood with the type of efficiency that makes it an additional mood swing for the piece. There was little by way of a soundscape but the music chosen was both appropriate and challenging to suit the piece.
The main message of this performance seems to have been – be careful what you look for. I have always wondered about how those of us who consider ourselves liberal and democrats would deal with someone whose views were anti liberal and fascist on a personal basis. Chris Thorpe does not seek to ask that question but to challenge our pre conceptions over how we think we ought to behave and how we really ought not to behave. Not only does this show challenge you it also asks you – square on – if you are illiberal in your outlook before you even begin. I did find it slightly over long though in such a small auditorium diverting your attention was impossible. This has certainly diverted my thinking and left me with questions – surely that is precisely what good theatre ought to be about… Makes this precisely good theatre.