In Status (developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin), Chris Thorpe uses his own fictionalised story of self-discovery to explore questions of nationhood and nationality in the 21st century. Behind him is a screen, displaying images relevant to his narrative. It first shows a quote of Theresa May’s from 2016: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” This sentiment troubles Thorpe, prompting him to question what it means to be ‘British’ or ‘English’, the inherent privileges attached to this imposed identity, and the connected feelings of guilt. We move from London the day after the EU referendum to the United States; specifically, the Navajo Nation, a land with fluid borders and stunning scenery. Through Serbia, East Germany and Singapore, before we end up back in Britain.
Thorpe claims that Status is neither a Brexit show, nor is it about him, but neither of these claims are strictly true. Thorpe’s ambivalence towards his motherland is likely relatable to many remain voters who woke up scarred and confused the day after the EU referendum. Leave voters, on the other hand, might roll their eyes at what they perceive to be Thorpe’s over-the-top sense of existential dread.
In this one-man show, however, Thorpe conveys with moving down-to-earthness his own experience of national dislocation, of feeling no longer at home in one’s own country. Thorpe’s narrative is accompanied by occasional music, sung by Thorpe and played on his guitar. These rather prosaic songs aren’t as engaging as Thorpe’s oral storytelling, however.
His quest-like journey takes some surprising twists and turns, even straying into magical realism, with surreal incidents such as an encounter with a talking coyote. Although somewhat confusing at first, these elements of the show add to rather than distract from its meaning. It’s unclear, though, what the overall message is. Perhaps it’s one that both Thorpe and the audience still need to figure out. Status remains, however, an intensely compelling piece of theatre.