Battersea Arts Centre
Reviewed – 23rd April 2019
“Thorpe is a gripping performer and writer who does not shy away from investigating the questions that shape our present”
“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” This is the quote, a statement made by Theresa May, which emblazons the screen as we enter the theatre for Chris Thorpe’s one man show, ‘Status’. Also onstage is a red guitar which he tunes periodically as his audience arrives.
The piece begins with a trip to Serbia where Chris is going to meet a writer. At a bar, he witnesses an incident of police brutality. When he intervenes and is slammed against a wall, his friend steps in. “You can’t do that to him. He’s British.” These words let him go. Thorpe says that this is not a show about Brexit, but it is certainly a show about the questions Brexit throws up, about nationality and immigration and borders.
Thorpe performs with an emphatic engagedness, speaking in long sentences like the words refuse to end. As he, or a man called Chris who is not him, travels around the world with his two passports, the screen behind him showing snapshot postcards of his destinations (video design by Andrzej Goulding), Monument Valley and Singapore, he meets many people. A stateless man, a coyote who was once a person. There is a hallucinatory quality to much of his journey through the world.
Sometimes his words are accompanied by the guitar, which thrashes into the space, but it is a welcome break in texture. At times the endless sentences spoken always at pace, always so deliberately feel too repetitive, overly long, with little variation in tone. The performativity of the piece occasionally feels difficult to connect with. Perhaps this is also because whilst we are on a journey, it is a journey of pieces and so a coherent narrative drive flags as the piece progresses. Despite this, ‘Status’ is without a doubt a frightening or frightened investigation into what nationality means, globally. Surreal but also very real.
Directed by Rachel Chavkin this is an urgent production that explores privilege (particularly white privilege), nationhood and global uncertainty. Thorpe is a gripping performer and writer who does not shy away from investigating the questions that shape our present.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by The Other Richard
Battersea Arts Centre until 11th May then UK & European tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue: