This video about theatre in Britain is called There Has Possibly Been An Incident: Interview with Chris Thorpe.
Reality checks with a future
Wednesday 3rd September 2014
MIKE QUILLE recommends two plays on far-right extremism that merit wider exposure beyond an apolitical festival
GIVEN the open, if undeclared, war being waged by the ruling classes across Britain and the energising effect of the referendum debate on Scottish politics, you might think that this year’s festival would have provided more in the way of artistic critiques, protest and alternative imaginings.
Yet much of the theatre on offer seemed unwilling to “stimulate a desire for understanding, a delight in changing reality,” to quote Bertholt Brecht.
Because political apathy rules, maybe no more should be expected from artists.
But this seems pretty undemanding when you see examples of good political theatre.
A case in point is Blood Orange, a classic piece of agitprop by the Electric Theatre Collective. It’s based on real-life recent events in Dumfries, when the Scottish Defence League attempted to march and mobilise support.
In the play, a young man’s grief for his mother and the loss of their family shop is manipulated by a shadowy skinhead into racist violence, with tragic results.
In the process of telling this story, Blood Orange successfully combines a strong political message, exuberantly expressed in poetic writing and great ensemble acting, which is presented within the — brilliantly appropriate— crazed visual and sonic aesthetics of clubbing.
It’s a show which could and should be shown anywhere in Britain as a wake-up call to the dangers of the far-right’s mobilisation of alienated working-class youth.
Confirmation, a one-man show by writer-performer Chris Thorpe, works differently but is equally effective.
Based on the psychological theory of confirmation bias — by which we tend to interpret the world in ways which reinforce our convictions —it explores what happens when liberal, tolerant attitudes come up against right-wing extremism.
Thorpe and director Rachel Chavkin dramatise the resulting conflict in an innovative way through role play, thought experiments and Q and A sessions with the audience.
These are all delivered passionately, even aggressively, by Thorpe as he lurches violently around centre stage. Like a demented boxer, he confronts himself, his imagined political opponents and us.
Through a dramatised dialogue with a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, Thorpe negotiates through the psychology of engagement with far-right opinions and the cautionary need to keep our core values while being aware of our natural bias.
Enlightening and entertaining, it’s an unpredictable, intimidating and daring performance.
Both shows plaited together ideas and action — they’re outstanding examples of another Brecht dictum, that “theatre must teach all the pleasures and joys of discovery and all the feelings of triumph associated with liberation.”
More of that, please.