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Edinburgh Festival Fringe Theatre 2014 - Confirmation – Kings Hall – Four stars / I Promise You Sex and Violence - Kings Hall - Three stars / A Series of Increasingly Impossible Events - Kings Hall - Four stars

Was the holocaust real? Some say not, despite all sensible evidence to
the contrary. This is one of the uncomfortable questions Chris Thorpe
squared up to in Confirmation, his investigation into something called confirmation
bias, a behavioural tic which effectively allows us to justify any
belief system we care to align ourselves with. The answers Thorpe gets
from the white supremacist he makes contact with may be predictably
shocking, but, as he restlessly paces the floor dressed in respectable
white shirt and grey trousers, microphone in hand, he too runs the risk
of becoming a demagogue in this blisteringly physical production
directed by The T.E.A.M.'s Rachel Chavkin.

Thorpe is a charismatic performer, unafraid of looking us in the eye as
he plays the part of his charming nemesis while we are tasked to ask
the awkward questions in a series of head to head exchanges that might
make believers of us yet. In a co-production by Warwick Arts Centre and
China Plate commissioned by King's Hall resident company Northern Stage
and Battersea Arts Centre, Thorpe has created a fiercely intelligent
and relentlessly curious piece that strives for he truth, even as it
acts as a warning to the easily led.

Identity issues of a more libido-led  kind spill out all over in
Northern Stage's own production at the King's Hall. I Promise You Sex
and Violence is the audience-baiting title of David Ireland's
taboo-poking sex comedy, which, in a parody of  bad taste, puts a
racist, a homophobe and a misogynist in the sack together to find out
what tickles their fancy.

While gay Bunny masturbates over Will Smith, his friend Charlie tries
to ease the pain of giving blow-jobs to Tories by seeking out some
black friends, which Bunny duly provides her with.

There's an increasingly desperate edge to Lorne Campbell's production,
as actors Esther McAuley, Reuben Johnson and Keith Fleming run riot
like a gang of Mike Leigh grotesques in a manic Sam Shepherd short. In
the end, Ireland's play is an old-fashioned tale about three lonely
people trying to be someone they're not en route to a gloriously
dysfunctional form of domestic bliss.

The Secret Theatre Company are an ad hoc ensemble put together by the
Lyric Hammersmith's director, Sean Holmes, to devise a series of
exploratory works. The first of their Edinburgh shows, A Series of
Increasingly Impossible Acts, has Holmes put a youthful ten-strong
ensemble through their paces in what initially looks like a series of
theatre games, but which by the end has become a breathless emotional
assault course that suggests a little help from their friends is a good
thing.

With the name of the evening's protagonist pulled out of a hat, the
winner must take an hour-long leap into the void that becomes a
post-modern getting of wisdom. On the first night, Katherine Pearce was
the chosen one, and was duly sanctioned to bend iron bars, lock herself
in a suitcase, move a tyre with her mind, keep her hands in a bucket of
icy water and suck a lemon ad nauseum. Inbetween she wrestled with her
colleagues while answering a series of truth or dare style questions
about her real life hopes and fears, which she delivered with charm and
self-deprecating wit. There was also a pitch-perfect scene from Romeo
and Juliet just to remind us she's an actress in a show that gets to
the profound heart of what play can be.

The Herald, August 4th 2014


ends

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