The holocaust hasn’t happened. Auschwitz survivors are liars. Racial mixing and multiculturalism is destroying our country and Jews are plotting to take over the world. What would you do if you came across a person who thinks this? What would you do if he or she said they can understand Breivik’s acts? You would see them as a complete psychopath, an outrageous monster, wouldn’t you? Advocating hate and people’s suffering isn’t normal. This is what you walk in to the performance of Confirmation with. You think no one can make you sympathise with someone so out of their mind. The question is whether you’ll feel the same after the show is over.
The strange hybrid of stand-up, lecture and monodrama at the West Yorkshire Playhouse starts off slow, occasional jokes setting the audience sat round the rectangular-shaped stage giggling. The star of the evening, Chris Thorpe, creates an entire world with just himself, a chair (two as it later turns out) and a mic. The intellectual jokes find ample response, landing well with the liberal, educated audience. We are introduced to the concept lying behind the show: confirmation bias, a phenomenon that makes us see everything in a way that strengthens our own opinions and preconceptions. Cue a mock scientific experiment trying to show audience how clueless they are, just a set of numbers, nothing more – we in the audience however try to see a complex algorithm. Now, the rough part begins.
A white supremacist song sounds from the speakers. Or is it, in fact, a call for racial tolerance? A process of self-exploration commences. Chris paints out a racist, Glen, who will in the process of the show make you more scared of yourself, and less of him. In the dialogue, it is less and less clear who is who. That is no coincidence. It wasn’t clear to start with. Glen isn’t a monster – unless the monster looks like you. We all have a point of view, an opinion, and try to foresee what will come based on what we already know or think we know. It is fair to say that every member of the audience had an idea what Glen might be like, because people like him are always the same. But it turns out a racist can also be a socialist, can enjoy a nice cup of tea and a cake and have a sad life story. As we learn more about Glen, our instinctive opposition and disgust starts to melt. We start to see him as a person, even though his opinions are abhorrent. And that mind worm will stay in your head for a long time.
Image: West Yorkshire Playhouse