Writer: Chris Thorpe
Director: Rachel Chavkin
Reviewer: James McColl
If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. This Theresa May quote looms over Chris Thorpe’s latest show, Status. It’s the first thing we see projected against the impressive video backdrop, designed by Andrzej Goulding, and Thorpe later admits that as much as he wishes this wasn’t true, there’s a part of him that believes it.
The stage is sparse, bar a mic and guitar which Thorpe uses sparingly throughout the show. Alternating between monologue and Billy Bragg inspired numbers, you might expect Status to be an assault on Tory ideology, instead we get a far more nuanced and introspective dissection of what it means to be British in 2019 – that is to say, to be of British nationality.
“This is not a Brexit show” Thorpe proclaims early into proceedings, and although hyperbolic, it is true. It’s not about the mechanics of Brexit, nor does it try and explain the latest twists and turns of British politics. Instead Status is an exploration of nationality and identity in the Brexit age. Thorpe himself has described the show as being Brexit-proof, which is an apt description of a show that will have a far longer shelf life than other Brexit centric shows.
After the divisive referendum and impending split from Europe, Chris the character as fictionalized by Thorpe, decides to leave London on an odyssey-like journey of self-discovery. Feeling completely alienated from his own country, Chris manages to obtain a second British passport and escapes on a destination-less road trip. Whether touring Monument Valley guided by a Native American or in a Singapore tower block with a stateless man, Chris is unable to escape his nationality. It has become entangled in his very essence. Being British, in any part of the world, brings with it a history. As Thorpe describes, it is like having a magic power. It is a privilege given to some and not others.
Rachel Chavkin’s direction and Tanuja Amarasuriya’s sound design play an important part in the success of Status, best demonstrated in the repeatedly visited 2001 Croatian bar scene. Held against the wall by local police, the words ‘you can’t do that, I’m British’ as spoken by Chris demonstrate the psychology of nationality. It brings into focus the reverberating power of a white male Britain even in another country. It demonstrates the lasting effects of empire, where British-ness saves him from a potential beating.
Status is a show that offers a far more introspective look at British identity which is often examined culturally. Here Thorpe and company try to unearth the deep history of what it truly means to be British on a global stage and what it means to have a national identity even when you are sickened by parts of it. As most have come to expect from Thorpe’s work, Status is expertly crafted and a show that lingers in the mind way after the fact.
Reviewed on 11th October 2019 | Image: The Other Richard