The reactionary mind and the limits of liberal tolerance in Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation and David Grieg’s The Events

Hudson, James (2016) The reactionary mind and the limits of liberal tolerance in Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation and David Grieg’s The Events. In: the International Federation for Theatre Research 2016 annual conference: ‘Presenting the Theatrical Past’, 12-17 June 2016, Stockholm University.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


While for more than a decade in Europe extremist Right-wing ideas have been mainstreamed and the far-Right has experienced a significant growth both in electoral success and extra-parliamentary activism, two timely plays recently performed in the UK have attempted to engage critically and analytically with aspects of racism and extremism motivated by reactionary politics. David Grieg’s The Events (2013) re-imagined a mass shooting with strong echoes of the atrocity perpetuated by Anders Breivik on the Norwegian island of Utøya; and Chris Thorpe’s quasi-verbatim Confirmation (2014) attempted to use the theoretical frame of confirmation bias to explore the ideological beliefs of the British webmaster of a white supremacist website. These notions have particular salience for the contemporary political climate of reactionary populism directed against refugees, minorities and immigrants in Europe.
This paper reads both plays as being representative of a particular form of Leftist political theatre inhabited by progressive politics that attempt to interrogate the reactionary mind, exploring how fascist and extremist racist ideologies are conceived and cultivated. Featuring protagonists with quintessentially liberal attitudes that are confronted by types of nativist racism, each play interrogates the boundaries of liberal tolerance when faced with its implacable, intolerant other. I suggest that in staging this encounter, both plays explore the implicit liabilities of the attitude of uncritical acceptance, with both protagonists’ moderate liberal certitudes destabilised and undermined until they are finally forced to affirm their intolerance against extremism as a way of preserving their prior, unexamined, axiomatic attitude of tolerance.

Keywords:David Grieg, Chris Thorpe, tolerance, Fascism, Multiculturalism, Racism
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
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ID Code:23368
Deposited On:30 Jun 2016 12:09

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