Status goes above and beyond the framework of Brexit: a journey masterfully written and interpreted by Chris Thorpe.
“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, then you are a citizen of nowhere” greets you as you enter Summerhall’s Main Hall. We have Theresa May to thank for it – but don’t worry: according to writer and performer Chris Thorpe, this is not a show about Brexit. And he’s right: with direction from Rachel Chavkin, Status is so much more than that. The referendum is just a trigger, the beginning; the actual story deals with the idea of nationality, of what it means to have one (or not) and how that somehow measures your worth.
It is quite a simple set up: an electric guitar with amplification and microphone, a projector creating some amazing animations on a big screen, and Thorpe narrating the journey of another Chris, a fictional one. The night of the vote, he’s on a rooftop in London: where he thinks he can see the whole of the UK and the mess it’s now in. He thinks about that time, in a pub abroad, when he dodged being punched by a policeman just because he was a white British man. He thinks about the time he got a second passport issued for work reasons, and how now he wished he had none at all. So he decides to leave everything behind, and renounce his privileged status.
With the aid of Chavkin’s direction, Thorpe’s writing and interpretation make the 80 minutes of the show fly by. The story turns into song, slam poetry into heart-wrenching monologues. Fictional Chris tries to bury his passports in the desert, splits his chest open to remove his nationality from behind his heart, listens to the stories of people that died in the sea, without a nation they belonged to. The characters he meets in his journey of self-discovery (or rather, self-renouncement) are vivid, flawed, weird, interesting. They are speaking animals, cardboard cut-outs of smiling women and Native American guides.
The thing I loved the most about Status is the self-awareness that permeates throughout every encounter and dialogue. Fictional Chris knows he is privileged because he is a white British man. And there are two things this kind of person should do: acknowledge his privilege and use it to support the causes that affect people with a voice not as powerful as his. I think Thorpe manages to do a pretty good job here.
Despite our highest hopes, a piece of theatre can’t address every single issue and offer a solution to all the problems – especially if it’s aware of its own limits. Chris Thorpe and director Rachel Chavkin know that but oh boy, do they try. Status is such an honest, failed experiment for fictional Chris, but an incredible achievement for the real one and the whole team behind this production.